Oral History

A short description or a series of words describing the content of this audio.

The 14 of January in the year 2000, Anne Davies interviewing Mary Murray at Cornrigs in Abernyte.

MM My full name is Mary Grant Tait Murray and I was born at Damside Cottage in The Parish of Kettins. I was just a babe when I stayed there. We were 15 of a family altogether. There was Margaret, John, William, Robert, Daniel, George, David, Mary, Betty, Margaret, Harry and Jessie. And three had died in between.

I was the eighth. I must have been the ninth because one died between earlier.

My mother had two babies in one year but they weren’t twins. George was born on the 4th January and David was born on the 17th November, the same year. And I was born two years later. We were all born at home. There was a lady used to come in and do the washing and look after the children. The nurse and the doctor visited.

AD What did your father do?

MM My father worked on the farms. He was a ploughman. When my brothers were 14 they went away to the bothies. They left home and went to work on farms. They flitted to different places. I left Lundie School when I was 13. There were 5 of us altogether at Lundie School. In the winter we were shod with boys’ boots; and my father put studs in them. It was like a big stampede of horses running down the road to school in the morning!

My oldest sister got married when I was 13 so I stayed at home to look after my mother because she always had bronchitis.

We lived in Lundie for about 15 years, that’s where the five of us went to school. That was the younger ones, the older ones were all away.  I was about 5 when we first moved to Balshando Cottage which had a three bedrooms. We had no water inside, nor inside toilet. We had to bring the water from the spring, which was a good bit along Balshando Hill, in heavy tin buckets. We did that in the morning before we went to school. If it didn’t rain we had to fill up the big barrel outside for the washing. You can guess how many buckets of water we had to carry.

 My mother had a big, old fashioned boiler outside which we had to fill as well. We boiled all the sheets, the underclothes and other washing in there. And then we put them into a wooden tub and used a scrubbing board.

We moved a few years later, the people who went in after us got the water put into an old outside shed.

We flitted to Clush Mill, which was still in Lundie where we had an outside water tap. In the winter we had to cover it up for frost to stop it freezing.

My father worked on the farm at Clush Mill. The house went with the job, if you left the job, well, you had to leave the house.

AD How did your father get the job? Did he go to the markets?

MM No, somebody would say to you “well, I’m looking for a man here“ and he’d go and see and get fixed up for a job. We stayed about 15 years altogether at Lundie and then we came up to Stobb Hall, on the Guildtown Road. I had left school by this time. Barbara, Jessie and Harry the youngest brother and sister had to walk up the side of the field and up through the wood to Newbiggin School. My father stayed there for about five, six or seven years.  Each time he moved was for more money. 

My brothers and oldest sister used to work as well, out on the farm. The farmer used to come and say if he needed somebody to do jobs, doing cattle, threshing, milking in the fields, tattie lifting, tattie planting. In those days all the money was needed as my mother had to pay for all the school books and everything.

MM But I was always at home because I had to cater for my mother. We had four, five boys boarded out in the bothies on farms around. I had all their washing and all their mending to do, plus looking after Harry, my brother, Barbara and Jessie. I had to get them off to school I wasn’t very old at that time! It didn’t do me any harm, all the hard work I had to do, it never did me a bit of harm.

We got some stuff from vans that came round to Lundie. There was a wee shop down in Lundie, run by Mr and Mrs Kettles. When we went to Clush Mill we had a three mile to walk to school and three miles to carry all the messages, two of the boys, and my sister and I. On a Saturday, if my mother was able to go, we’d go on the bus to Dundee, we would go with her, and get a lot of our messages.  William Lowes was a shop on the corner of Tay Street, that’s many years ago!

AD And what sort of things, when you went into Dundee, what would you buy there?

MM Just a lot of groceries that would do you for a long time, more than a week or fortnight. William Lowes had a message boy and he used to bring the box down to the bus station and put it on the bus.

It was a long way down to Clush Mill from the bus a long way from known, Lundie Castle. We had an Alsatian dog.

MM Yes, that we used these years ago when we were at Lundie, at Clush Mill, and it was? they had a wee barrel made and we put the message box there and ma brother Dave, aye we pulled it and helped the dog bring the messages home.

AD [Laughter] And did the dog like it?

MM I don’t know. The dog didna have to, it had no choice! It didna do it any harm either.

AD And when you went to school then, that was up to 14, all the children...

MM 13 I left.

AD Right, and there was just one teacher, or two teachers?

MM Aha, in these days you got away if yer mother was ill and she’d nobody else.

AD And did you used to have lunch at school? Did you take a piece?

MM No, I’ll tell you what we had a big jeely piece, and we all got a penny in the morning from ma mother, and went to Kettles’ shop in the morning and handed over the penny for the five of us that were at school.

AD So that was five pence?

MM A big slice and she spread it with jam and then she put a digestive biscuit there and then she popped the lid on the top, [laughs] and then we took our cocoa and sugar and milk to the school and the teacher boiled a big kettle on the sway, you ken, the thing, a cleek, the kettle hung on and she poured the water into the

AD Cups, yes.

MM Cocoa, and that was our lunch. And our jeely piece and digestive biscuit in between it and a cup, a mug of cocoa and that did us till we get home. And we knew what we were getting when we got home.

AD What was that?

MM A big plate of soup and chappit tatties. Hare, hare soup it was, ma, ma sister made it, sliced with, whole with the mashed tattie.

AD And did your father and the boys catch the hares?

MM Er, yes, on the farm. But, eh, I couldn’t look at it now, we had so much in these days I got scunnered with it!

AD [laughs] And what did you have for breakfast? Porridge?

MM Porridge every morning, porridge every morning.

AD And did you have to make that? Or your sister?

MM My father got the milk on the farm, you see, he got his free milk. For porridge every morning.

AD And were there any other children on that farm, I mean, were there other farm workers?

MM No, there was families and they were grown up and away from home.

AD But I mean, were, there other ploughmen when yer Dad was the ploughman, was there a ploughman there?

MM No, there was only a couple left, not a ploughman, because it wasn’t a very big place down at Clush Mill.

AD No, aha. And from then over to Stobb Hall, was that a big farm?

MM Which one?

AD The one at Guildtown?

MM Yes it was. There were three houses and we were, lived in the middle one and the other two ladies husbands worked there on the farm.

AD Right. So in other words, if you’d got children a farmer quite liked having you to work because...

MM Yes they liked them these days, they needed them for lifting potatoes, and the old scattered digger, you know, and it was horses not tractors

AD No, aha, you didn’t like that?

MM Och, I enjoyed it.

AD Aha, and the berries as well?

MM We went to the berries. We got on the bus and went to them. There was the Merlins and the Gordons near Blairgowrie, past, on the main road, and we used to go on the bus there and go to the berries in the morning. We had to do it to get extra money to buy clothes. Aha. But nowadays when you tell some kids that they say you must be, you must have been daft, I wouldnae have done it, I says but we had to do it. We had no choice.

AD Exactly. No, no. And what, em, and did any of the girls work in the house? Did any of the girls, work, and do housework to help inside or were you all on the fields?

MM Well, they did their own beds and tidied up.

AD Yes, but they didn’t work for the farmer’s wife?

MM Oh no, no they were all younger than what I was.

AD Right right, ahem. And what, what did you do in the evenings then?

MM Played cards.

AD Did you?

MM Played cards and punched one another till we were sent off to bed. [laughter] Then they said “You, you come on, bed! “

AD And how old was yer mother when she died then, was she, how old was yer mother when she died again?

MM Er she was only in her early 50’s. That bronchitis.

AD And was she in hospital...?

MM Well it wasn’t actually that she died with, it was the dropsy, her urine wasn’t coming with right with it at that time.

AD Dear, dear, dear. And then yer father...

MM She died in my arms but that was in Balbeggie she died.

AD Oh. So you went, how did you get to Balbeggie then?

MM That was a mistake I made. We come, eh, well maybe, about 12 years.

AD In Balbeggie? Gosh.

AD And were you, where were you living then? In Balquillans

MM Er, The Knowes.

AD Oh, at The Knowes.

MM Before it was sold. We lived there what now, about 18 year I think, 16 or 18 years, then when the house was sold we moved up to Balquillans till we got this house where we are now, at the Council Houses. Altogether we’ve been there for over 50 years, in the district, Abernyte district, since 1946.

MM Yes. On the farm.

AD Which farm was that one then?

MM And my brother, one of my brothers, Bob, Robert, that’s the one I looked after as well, and em, that was all of us at home. By this time, Barbara and Betty had been away, they lived at Scone Aerodrome when we lived there at Balbeggie, and they were transferred down to England.

AD Because then that was the war was it?

MM That was, aha.

AD During the war, yes.

MM So, eh...

AD And what, how different was the life for your father, then, to a farm worker nowadays?

MM The farm?

AD Yeah, I mean, he must have been going out early in the morning, yer father.

MM Oh yes, about 4 o’clock some mornings, in, er, the days of the horses. And, eh, he used to go out at 4 o’clock, and get everything ready, get the hay in the hayrack and get everything, get them fed early, and this was in the summertime, not in the wintertime, and get all the, sit and polish at all the harness things for the morning and by the time he got all that done, and fed them it was time to get them harnessed and out into the plough or whatever they were away to do. Oh, it was a hard life in those days.

AD And then when did he have a break? Did he have a stop for a piece at…

MM Never stopped until dinner time, 12 o’clock.

AD Gosh. And then he came back to the house?

MM He had an hour, came to the house for lunch, that was his hour.

AD Give the horse a rest!

MM Ah.

AD And then at night, he, before he came in, he’d got to deal with the horses again.

MM Yes, aha. He had to go back again after lunch, and away to the horse and out again. Well taking him to the trough for a drink and get them ready, for doing the job whether it was potato lifting, or ploughing or whatever, to harvest.

AD Yes. And did they have a cow, a cow, the farm, for...

MM They used to have a cow for supplying milk to the workers, yes, that’s right.

AD Yes, yes. And did you have to milk that, or ..

MM No, no, no. They had somebody, the farmer would usually do that hisself.

AD Oh right, and you had a, em, hens, did you have hens as well?

MM We had hens and we had a pig.

AD  Oh, right.

MM And it was a black pig and I’ve never seen a black pig since that. But the poor thing was so well fed it went off the legs and it had to be killed. But we had bacon. Cured, one cured and one I don’t know what you called it. And bacon..

AD And, and who killed it? Who killed the pig?

MM I don’t, I can’t remember who, somebody had to come and do it, I don’t know...

AD And then you did all the ...

MM And he did, he took it away and he did all, the bacon come back all cured in net bags  ready  for hanging up.

AD So you had those in the kitchen?

MM Didna hang up long! [laughter].

AD And what about, you had a garden, as well, did you...

MM Yes, we had a lot of vegetables, potatoes, in the garden and that.

AD And that was, the boys do that or yer Dad?

MM Yeah.

AD And what about em, what was it...? [coughs]; [paper rustles]. So, when your father was working on the farm, em, what happened to the, em, all the produce there, like say when he was ploughing the grain, what would he be grow, what would the farmers grow? When yer father was a ploughman, what did they grow? Was it oats, or wheat, barley?

MM Eh, both oats and barley.

AD And what happened to it, did it, did he keep it there or did it go off to...?.

MM No, he retired when he was 50...

AD No, but the barley and the oats. The crops, yes.

MM Up at David Sinclair’s you mean?

AD No, at Balshando? When you were at Balshando? When you were at Balshando.

MM Well they grew everything, all kind of oats, wheat, corn and barley .And eh, and I don’t know where they got it dried because he didn’t have any facilities for drying the grains or anything. But I was just a young bairn at that time.

AD And there, did somebody come and fetch this stuff or...?

MM No, no. Don’t really know, we weren’t near the farm, we were away from the farm altogether.

AD And do you remember when the, when they were harvesting, did you have to go out and help then?

MM Em, no, that was my oldest sister, we were on Balshando, she used to go out.

AD Yes, yes.

MM In these days farmers used to have to go round the field with a scythe and make a road for the binder and horses, and she used to go behind taking a big bunch and tying it up, you know and throwing it aside all the way round the field until they got it finished. Well more than once to go round it, to make a road for the binder and the horses coming in, and that was at Balshando.AD     And then did that happen at the next farm?

MM Yes, they all had horses in these days and the old-fashioned binders. I still remember them.

AD Ha! And it must have been really scratchy on yer hands, did it, was it?

MM No, I used to wear gloves.

AD Right, right. And did you have to do that job?

MM No, I was always at home. I did, always made the lunch and do all the work in the home, cooking and washing.

AD Yes, and when you said about mother had all the children at home and that, what happened to all the other children while she was actually having the baby? It must have been a terrible noise and very upsetting for you?

MM Oh, no, they were all put outside.  Out to play out of the way!

AD It might have been a long job outside!

MM And I had to go and to keep the eye, you know, to watch over them!

AD Yes. And you also, I notice you said, em, when I said what happens with you at night, and you said you got sent to bed,

MM You got them, put them all into bed, sleep four in a bed, big double bed.

AD Yes, what, head and toes? Two one way and two the other?

MM Aye. Two at the bottom, two at the top or three at the top and one at the bottom!

AD [laughter] And when you moved then, this was an open, what did you do, a horse and cart when you flitted? 

MM Yes, aha. Horse and cart.

AD And what would you have had then for furniture? Would you have had as much as we have today?

MM Oh, no, no, no. But things were a lot cheaper then, but you didn’t have the money but they were a lot cheaper than what they are today, but it was the wages, because then, today, you wouldna have been able to buy.

AD Can you remember what you got? You wouldn’t remember.

MM A shilling a day or something. Oh, I think ma father got maybe a pound a week, something like that. They got 6 or 10 Saturdays to work and that was, they didn’t get anything for that.

AD No, no. And Christmas?

MM Christmas? One day. One day.

AD And New Year?

MM The same.

AD Just one of that, ahem. And what happened at New Year, can you remember?

MM The New Year? Nothing. We never had, my father never had drunk, it was only lemonade or tea, whatever.

AD Aha aha. And when the boys came back with their washing from the bothies, did they used to bring money back for yer Mum and Dad or?

MM Well, it was to me but I used to give, to give it to them to spend for things they needed.

AD Yes, yes. So, er....

MM I was the one that done all the work but it was to get for mum mostly things for mum that she needed.

AD What about, did you ever go to a market, you know, to, did they buy their cattle at the markets and that? Can you..

MM No, no they didn’t. The farmer did all that. You know the farmer up there, eh, what do you call it, they Ritchie, old baldie Ritchie.

AD Littleton! Alastair Richie, Alistair. Alistair and Alexander, yes, their father. Oh he had Balshando, yes he’s still....

MM That was the father.

AD Oh yes, and he had Littleton, didn’t he and worked Balshando as well?

MM Yes. But I never knew any of the family. They were not there.

AD So what happened in the bad weather then, what did your father do then? When it was bad weather because...

MM Well sometimes he had to do something inside.

AD They kept them out, yes.

MM Always got a job inside. Washing tattie bags, cleaning out sheds and [?]

AD So you stayed, and you then went from Balshando down to Clush Mil then up to Guildtown...

MM Clush Mill, Guildtown and I made a mistake there, we come from Guildtown to Balbeggie.

AD Right, so how old were you when you got to Balbeggie?

MM Oh, I’d just be, what, I’d be in my early twenties, wouldna maybe be, well Barbara, thirty, Barbara, that was Harry and Jessie were still at Balbeggie School. And of course I think Barbara was just about leaving school and I had them to get all ready for school in the morning. And do all the, as I say, there was only father and mother and one brother at home.

AD Did you have to do the, did you have to knit for them?

MM I had all that to do for them. Barbara knows, she’ll tell you today that I looked after them, and put them to school and that. Because there wasn’t much between them in years, three years between them and...

AD Yes, yes. And so were you still looking after your family? At Balbeggie, until you were married…

MM Oh,no, no. Balbeggie, that’s when my mother died, in 1944, she died.

AD So, em all the time that you were before, before you were married to stayed at home to look after your father and...

MM Look after ma father and ma mother and my twelve year brother, till they lost him  [piercing alarm].

AD So what did, em, so did you get paid for doing that for for looking after yer parents?

MM No, no. I got ma food I got my clothes and bed…

AD What, I just can’t, don’t see how people, did you go to anything in the village as well, any of the events that they had like the Rural or whist drives or....

MM I think they always had Rurals.

AD And did you use to go or did you stay, because you had a lot to do at home?

MM Aye.

AD  And then when, and so then you came over to Abernyte, you came over from Balbeggie to Abernyte.

MM Yes, in 1946.

AD Right. And yer Dad lived then, then yer Dad was working...

MM He worked on the farm.

AD At Abernyte?

MM Yes. With David Sinclair.

AD Oh David Sinclair was there then!

MM Oh yes, that was before he was married.

AD When was that you say, 46? 1946.

MM David was married I think the following year when they were lifting tatties.

AD Oh that’s right, cos I think he said that you that you used to look after....

MM You shouldna have put that bit in, the following year I said, aha. yes, ma father was cattleman there. well he didn’t have a job when we moved to The Knowes, and he got a job at the farm as a cattleman.

AD And how many cattlemen did he have?

MM Oh he had quite a lot at that time, he had a lot of cattle.

AD Cattlemen!

MM Cattlemen. Just my father.

AD Just yer father. And then he had some ploughmen?

MM Oh he had workers, yes. My brother was one of them and they had a man in a cottage, you know the one at the back of...And a young person next door at The Knowes was there.

AD So how many houses was the Knowes then?

MM There were three.

AD Three of you, yes. So you were in one...

MM We were in the middle one and there was a fellow Black and his wife and two daughters in the small one with only one end bedroom and living room and an old scullery place at the back. We were in the bigger one with a big bedroom, another bedroom and a living room and there were a young couple next to the road.

AD Yes. And was he working on the farm?

MM They all worked on the farm. Aha.

AD Did you have water there? Or did you have to go down to the burn?

MM The whole house was modernised ten year after we were in. So you’re coming from 1946, ten year later.

AD So for those first ten years...

MM We did have water in, but in an old boiler in the scullery. It wasn’t a kitchenette; you know what I mean. So we got, David Sinclair modernised and we got a bathroom and also a wee kitchenette. It was lovely after that.

AD And er when you did the washing did you do that outside?

MM There?

AD Yes. Did you have a wash house?

MM We had the water in there.

AD No. Wash house, did you do yer washing outside?

MM Oh well, there was an old wooden shed, no, we used to wash in the big sink that, it was a big old fashioned sinks and a small one, we used to wash in the big one and scrub whatever you got, get washed. An old mangle we had outside, the clothes, we hung them up to dry.

AD And so then David had a lot of cattle, when you first, yes, yes.

MM Aye, he had a lot of cattle.

AD So he had ploughmen and teams, did he have horses?

MM Well we had one in that farm cottage at the back and there was one in the cottage next to us that was...

AD And did they have horses? Or were they tractors?

MM That was now in 1940 something, to, it was Mr and Mrs Fairweather lived there they had...

AD But did they have horses? Or did they have tractors by this time?

MM Eh, now. 1946. I can’t remember if we had horses at that time but he had an old tractor, my brother used to drive it, an old Fergie tractor, Fergie tractor.  He must have had horses at that time, I just can’t remember about the horses.

AD And was it, was still as hard a life for yer father or was a cattleman an easier job?

MM Well, there was no easy job on the farm, didn’t matter what job you had, but eh, he did a lot of work on the cattle.

AD Did he have to, er, milk the cows as well?

MM Oh, no, no, no. Sinclair, he had a machines thing. They kept the cow for supplying milk to the workers.  It was lovely milk.

AD Aha. What sort of cows did he have? Were they Friesians or Ayrshire....

MM He had Friesians. It,s a  long time ago.

AD And did you go to the berries then? When you lived down there? Did you used to go to the berries?

MM Yes, we used to go that way. There used to be a lorry that came and picked us up, now, where did he live now, not far away. He used to drive a lorry, this fellow, anyway and he used to pick us up and take us along to Millhill for the berries.

AD And how many of you used to go from Abernyte?

MM Oh, there was quite a few.

AD Kids as well?

MM Aha. And we were there all day until he came at night because he used to work all day with the lorry. Aitken we called him. He didn’t live there, he lived in a big shed down at the bottom.

AD Oh, Geordie Alcorn.

MM No, no it wasn’t him. He went away to the Bridge of Earn to live, I can’t remember him.

AD And so you did the, so you did, so for you all the time you looked after yer Dad and then you went to the berries, tatties? Did you do the tatties?

MM Aye. tatties at David Sinclair’s.

AD Yes, yes. And anything else? The harvest, did you have to help with that or...?

MM Eh, yes, putting the sheaves on the cart.

MM The sheafs or whatever you call them.

AD Yes, yes.

MM And then later on it was bales, the men forked at the bales.

AD Yes, yes.

MM And they were saying now keep that corner in, keep that, let that corner out. put that forward a little bit to get it, to keep it from falling off, they were trying to keep it and tell you how to put them in, but, er. I says I ken how to do it! [laughs].

AD And they were brought up to Abernyte to the farm? And stored there?

MM Yes, it was built outside the farm. Mind you in these days he had a pea mill, David Sinclair used to have a pea mill there. I tell you it was hard work!

AD And what did you, em, what did you have to do with the pea mill, what did that do?

MM Well when the men brought the peas in, on the bogies, they would pour them off into the mill, into the pea mill, and I had to stand along the front and watch all these boxes when the peas were coming through and as they were full up you‘d to lift them and build them up waiting on a lorry coming.

AD And how big was the, a box?

MM A big tin box about that size.

AD Oh right. And then did those go for canning?

MM You just pulled them out, put in empties, built them up and left them waiting on the lorry, coming up.

AD And then they went off to be canned?

MM Yes. And in between, when you were waiting on the boxes filling up, you had to crawl underneath along the back of the canvas and sweep out all this


AD Right, so what were you saying, now, what were we talking about? I’ve forgotten what we were talking about! What were we talking about? [laughs]. You said you got money from, you would earn money from the tatties, the berries, and perhaps the sheaves, the harvest, loading the thing, and then again, by this time, did you, you wouldn’t have, what did you do at night? Just sit and play cards, or read, or?

MM We never sat up too late because you were, well, working all day and that you got tired at night.

AD So what time did you start in the morning?

MM Er, you mean going out to work?

AD No, normally when your Dad was working?

MM Oh well, he’d start before seven o’clock. But before ma father got ajobhere, you know where he used to cycle to before he got the job from David Sinclair, he used to cycle over to Morningside, not Morningside, there’s a farm just next to the Scone Aerodrome, Gairdrum.

AD I know yes. well my father push-biked all that way and I used to get up at three o’clock in the morning, make up his sandwiches, fill up his two flasks and he was away by four o’clock in the morning, to cycle to be there by seven in the morning. And he did that for nearly a year and he got a job from David Sinclair.

MM So how did he come here then? How, what made him move to Abernyte then? Because there was a house?

AD He, why did we move from there? Ma father had taken ill when he was in, living in Balbeggie, I don’t know if it was, I was down in London with a friend, a girl, and I was supposed to get a fortnight’s holidays after my mother died, and this was the same month but later, November, and I was only

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