Mrs. Jessie Bright
Interviewed by Norman Alm
18 January 1999
NA: Well I wonder if you could maybe just start by saying a little bit about when you came to Abernyte.
JB: How I got to Abernyte ? Well, that was as father had to join the war, he had to go to the war, and mother was left with three kids at Lochee. So anyway mother had seen this advert in the paper for a holiday in this wee cottage at Abernyte. She hadn’t the least idea where it was or anything. So we eventually came to Abernyte for our holiday. What was I, three -- between three and four, and then there was Mary and George older than that and so we had a wee holiday. Mother felt ‘What a grand place to bring up kids’, and spotted this empty house down at the Milton. She had to walk to Ballindean, over the hill. So she’d walk all that way to see Mr, what was his name? Never mind.
NA: So this was the little cottage that’s by the burn?
JB: Yes, that’s what she saw. An empty cottage. Anyway, she got the wee cottage and we were settled in there before father came home.
NA: Do you know what year that was, roughly?
JB: Well, I’d gone to school, I joined Lochee before I left.
NA: This was after the First War?
JB: This is just before the war finished, and I was born in 1913. And, and then one day we were coming down the road and here’s this soldier coming up the road, ‘Ooh! Who’s this ? Oh, it’s Daddy, our Daddy’ [Laughs] And that was him out of the army. So they thought what are they going to do? He had to go, walk from Abernyte, well he got a bike eventually, down to the Inchture Station, cause a friend of his had given him a job. This friend of his hadn’t had to go, he was, I think he was past it, actually, he hadn’t been fit, fit enough. Tailors weren’t very healthy because they were stuck inside all the day. Anyway, father eventually decided this. At Abernyte Father’s shop was, next to the Reid’s farm. There was a place where they use to have to have their holy meetings. Every village had to have a wee roomie that they had to have their meetings, and this was, empty by this time and had lovely big window, a lovely tall window and it was just ideal for him for him, for his work.
NA: He was a tailor to trade?
JB: Yes. So he started up in there, and did quite well. You know, slow. The farmers were good and the ploughmen got a pair of cords once a year or, you know. All the ladies were getting new skirts and he did a lot of mending. And he did away fine. But it had never been a fortune, but there you are.
NA: So he was making clothes from scratch as well as …
JB: From scratch, aye. He sent away for patterns and the folk chose what they wanted, whether it was tweed or thinner stuff or thicker stuff or whatever. It was all good stuff because, they were just sort of wakening up after the war, you know, thinking about things, and he did make a bit at that time and got on fine, so that was him settled.
NA: Did he make suits as well?
JB: Suits, oh yes, yes, whole suits, overcoats.
NA: And where did he get the materials?
JB: He got the patterns and material from these firms.
NA: So the material came already cut in the pattern?
JB: No, no, he measured, he had to see how much. He calculated how much he would need, and lining, facings, all that, buttons and everything like that all came by post and that’s the way they did it.
NA: And did he make all of your clothes in the family as well?
JB: Oh, yes. We were still in Abernyte when we went to Lady Kinnaird’s Sunday School and, this is jumping the gun but this lady had said to my mother, ‘Jessie came in like a model’, with this new coat on, cause I was skinny and just the right shape !
NA: So your father was tailor right through the twenties and into the thirties in Abernyte?
JB: Yes, when did we leave Abernyte -- when I was 14, you can count that up. We came down to Inchture. One of my brothers went to Longforgan to be a baker, he had to get lodgings because he had to get up at three in the morning so he couldn’t stay at home. Mary, of course, had to go to service, so she was seven miles away. She was in one of these houses along the glen, Dunsinnan? Dunsinnan, along there. Macbeth ! She never thought about it, because I was the reader. I think I would have been scared stiff. Anyway, Mother found this house at Inchture was empty so she grabbed it to get, get down there, to get her family organised.
NA: When did you leave school then, what age?
JB: Well, we were moved to Inchture the day we were leaving the school in the summer, summer holidays started so I had three months to go to September when I was 14. And they just said oh just leave it and I went up and down on my bike. And, I could have just gone to Inchture for the wee while, for all the difference it made it me, but I would have got to know the Inchture girls, whereas I lost my Abernyte girls and I didn’t get to know the Inchture girls.
NA: And then you left school?
JB: And I left school. I had a wee, wee job in Valentines before I went off.
NA: Then you worked at Valentines, and then you left Valentines and where did you work after that?
JB: I went into service. It was a lady in the Ferry. Oh she was a topper. She’d been in India with all them black folk, pushing them around. She taught me, I’m telling you, she taught me, she would put, put her hand up and see if I had dusted the top of the door and everything. I never had time to sit down. Mother realised what was happening, so next thing was somebody had heard, there was a job with the Fingask people -- Gilroy. And that’s when I went to Fingask. I was there for three years in the kitchen. I was scullery maid and then kitchen maid. I was wanting to be a cook. Then of course, that got to be a bit too much for me as well -- I was only a little girl. [Laughs]. So mother got me out of there and then I was just an ordinary housemaid.
NA: Just jumping back a bit, now, to take you back to your Dad in the First War, is it right that he got a medal in the war? Did he ever talk about his experiences in the war, to the family, when he came back?
JB: No, he never said, he never said, he was a quiet man. He never said a word and I was too wee to be interested. It was maybe when we were older that my mother said that he was in the Signals, putting up these telephone wires across, somebody spotted him amongst all the bullets.
NA: Is that what he got the medal for?
JB: Doing that, yes, being under fire. Yes you got, well he had his medal you see, and then you had your service, your service medal you were in and then how many years you were in. This was it, he was in nearly four years.
NA: Where were your father and mother from originally?
JB: Well, Mother was a Dundee girl and Father was an Edzell lad. And his father was tailor up at Edzell and so to get on with his job he came down to Dundee. And he met my mother at the dancing.
NA: Where did that take place?
JB: In Dundee. Oh, I’ve forgotten these. Oh, there were very famous dancing --
NA: Dance halls.
JB: A dancing teacher, you know, they all went to dancing classes before they went to the dancing. Oh yes. So this is where they met, at the dancing.
NA: When you were in Abernyte, you were at Abernyte school from the age of 5 to 14. Do you recall the names of the teachers there?
JB: Yes. We got Miss MacKay, they lived, she and her mother lived in the lodge at the top of Rossie Priory, along where the old kirk is. Lime Avenue, they lived there. And, Mr and Mrs Faulkner -- we had three classrooms.
NA: And how many children were there, roughly?
JB: There was lower infants, higher infants and class one in Miss MacKay’s room, Well, when I was in there, there was 7 or 8 or so in my class and that in each class more or less there must have been. I mean that roomie was full. And then there would be two three and four in Mrs Faulkner’s room at the end. Well, that was full, more or less, six and seven in there, and then eh, the dominie had five, that was the qualifying class. He was supposed to bring them on if you wanted to go to the Harris.
NA: The dominie was Mr Faulkner?
JB: Yes. There was hardly anybody in class seven. Because any laddie that was on the farm turned 12, the oldest one, the farmer had him. That was the way they were paid. For a loon, as he talked about, the father got the job if he had a loon coming up, and so that was him away. They never they never got a chance to read or write when they were at home. Whenever they went home they had to go and muck the pigs out.
NA: So they left at 12 during the war?
JB: They left, yes.
NA: And their father got the job because they had a son coming up.
JB: That’s right, that helped them, it depends on, it depends what the farmer was needing, yes, but that’s why these laddies disappeared. Ally Larsen and I were left from that, from summer to September in Class 7 and that was it. We were in Class 7, I don’t think, I don’t think we were there for a year but it didn’t matter anyway because Class 6 and 7, just always mucked up were always all together. Ally was clever but, eh, I think there was another lassie who was quite good. We used to stand up, and do a reading and ask questions and things like that, with the other kids was doing their sums or writing or whatever they were doing, essay or something quietly in the seats. We were standing out on the floor.
NA: And did any children go on to the Harris that you recall when you were there?
JB: Oh yes, well Nin Reid did, she was ages with Mary. Mary never went to the Harris, but Nin left. Ella McGregor but I didn’t mind her having been at the school, she could have been there. She would have been a big girl when I was just a little girl. But I remember Nin Reid being at the school. I never got hold of Isa, she never let on, she disappeared. She was sent to dressmaking lessons and everything like that.
NA: What do you remember about what you did at the school. Presumably it was different routines then than these days in primary schools?
JB: Ah, well I remember I was bored stiff at the beginning. Cause I was awfully fond of being outside. And there’s me sitting playing with these silly beads. Played with these beads, threading them or something, and sun shining out there you know. Then we wrote our numbers, you know they had the jotters, your ones and your twos, you know, and then you got, you got letters and you had to write all the letters then you’d get a word.
NA: What were you writing with?
JB: Well we had a slate pencil, a slate pencil, at first then once you got a bit better you’d then get a book. You would be class 1 indeed before you got a book and a pencil. That would be the third class. And eh..
NA: Did you have pen and ink there as well?
JB: Yes we did but I think we would be in Mrs Faulkner’s room by that time. Oh yes and somebody had to fill the inkwells. They were very proud of themselves, the oldest ones [Laughs]. Got to fill these inkwells before they left in the afternoon.
NA: What were they filled out of, a big bottle ?
JB: Oh aye, there was a huge bottle but then someone filled this smaller bottle for our use. To avoid spilling.
NA: What about playtimes then, did you get playtime during the day?
JB: Oh, yes. We got out at 11 o’clock. At 11 o’clock, that was only about ten minutes. Just time to go out and back again. And then you get an hour for your dinner. I ran down that road, home for my dinner, plate of soup, a pud, ran back again. I didn’t like it because I didn’t have any playtime [Laughs]. I only got to stay, and had my soup if it was a terrible winter. There was three and a half years between Mary and I, so when she left the school, mother wouldn’t have me running down that road on me own.
NA: Do you remember any of the games you used to play?
JB: Oh yes. There was one interesting fact -- don’t know if you knew about the playground. The boys were round there up to half that playground, and the girls had the top half and the back. And you know the boys could play football and that ball wasn’t supposed to pass that half. There was no mark, just an imaginary one, and if we were playing a game we could only run down to that imaginary mark and then.
NA: It wasn’t actually chalked, you just knew where the line was?
JB: No, and the dominie kept looking out the big windows there at that time, making sure, listening if anybody, boys you know, swearing, oops, away he went.
NA: Do you remember what games you used to play?
JB: Aye, we had hopscotch. We went in a circle and one was in the middle and then she had, why did she touch this one and she had to go in the middle. And then we had the one how one girl was out, and you’d got to run and you’d to catch somebody, so that, she got her, and the next one she got, got her and then you’d to do all that till you caught them all and made a whole long line. That lasted a long time, kept to you warm in the autumn. You were encouraged to do like that.
NA: Did you use a skipping rope?
JB: Yes. We had skipping. In the shelter shed was the place for the skipping because it was smooth. And then we played ball, we played for hours. You know, another girl and me, it was her turn and my turn, we played for hours, throwing that ball [Laughs].
NA: And did you stay at the Milton Cottage the whole time you were at Abernyte.
NA: So your father sort of came up to work at the building in the middle of the village. Can you recall what other businesses there were in Abernyte at that time? What shops or pubs or businesses?
JB: No, there was nothing, there was nothing there at all except, well, the joiners shop was on the bottom, and the smiddy, there was the smiddy.
NA: Do you recall the names of the joiner and the smiddy at that time?
JB: Greig was the smiddy, Mr Greig. And Mr Greig lasted a long time. He used to come drink at the pub, he was one of our father’s pals. Father didn’t go to the pub at first but he eventually, when he joined the bowls [Laughs]. During the war there was nothing to get at the pub, you know the First War. Anyway Greig was at the smiddy and that was the Stewarts at the top of the road had the joiners. Old Mr Stewart, as we knew him, he had a great long beard like this, now I don’t think he actually worked by the time. But what I remember of him, him and another man, I can’t mind who it was, stood up in the church, part of the service, and read the bible or gave us a lecture or whatever, part of the service on Sunday, and this man had a long gray beard. These Stewarts, they were in Rock Cottage and then they come out of there, and they came to Abernyte and they stayed in a house opposite, more or less, the Greigs, there. Now at one time there was four brothers in that joinery.
NA: So there was the joinery, and the smiddy and your father doing the tailoring and that was all?
JB: That was all the businesses.
NA: And was there a shop up the brae ? Outside of the village ?
JB: Ah yes. Pitkindie.
NA: Where exactly was that shop, was it just up by Pitkindie Farm or was it beyond?
JB: Where Miss Vogelsanger stayed on the brae. Well it was farther round to the right.
NA: That house where Miss McLaggan used to be there.
JB: Yes that’s right.
NA: Just next to the Witches Dub.
JB: Aha. That was where the shop was. Yes. We used to get tuppence and walk up, from where we stayed and right up the hill and up there just to spend this tuppence. [Laughs]. Cause you got a lot of sweeties for tuppence.
NA: That was a general store with lots and lots ...
JB: Yes. The original couple that had it, an old man and a younger woman …
NA: What was their name?
JB: Now that’s a problem, I think, that’s a problem. He went round with a horse and cart, you know, round the villages and that horse knew the road, that well [Laughs] that it took him home. I don’t know whether, where he would stop or whether, folk was giving him it, or what, but by the time he got home he wasna driving his horse! That’s just what I’ve heard! [Laughs]
NA: There were no pubs in Abernyte at that time, so if anyone wanted to go to a pub they came down to Inchture ?
JB: Oh no. Very, very Christian. Och, yes.
NA: The church, then. You went to the United Free Church.
JB: Yes. But by that time everybody was friendly. I mean they weren’t arguing about what religion you had. The minister was a great. He had a choir and Father and Mary were in his choir. He had a nephew from Dundee and he used to bring out a party from Dundee during the winter months and they gave us two or three concerts, oh gorgeous! That’s where I got to know all these lovely, you know the Mikado songs and all these things, I mean they were that kind, they werena Scotch, I mean OK there was a couple would stand and sing you know, ‘The Road and the Miles to Dundee’ or something, you know, or ‘I Love a Lassie’ and things like that you know, lovey dovey ones. But, gorgeous concerts they gave us. And then we had, we had, you know the ... magic lantern. Magic lantern shows -- somebody came out and gave us that, oh it was gey good.
NA: Now, can you tell me, were the two churches quite separate -- the United Free Church and the main one ? And there were two ministers.
JB: Yes. There was Mr and Mrs Smith, that was who was the minister. Canny, a canny pair, but nice souls they were.
NA: What sort of size was the congregation at the United Free Church??
JB: Oh the Parish church was big cause they had, they had all the farmers and anybody else, we just had, well we had the farmers as well, but it was a weer church, of course.
NA: And were the services every Sunday morning?
JB: Every Sunday morning and we didn’t have an evening service but the parish church did. So if you wanted, you just went to the evening service. And as well, Rossie Priory had services.
NA: In the Priory?
JB: Rossie Priory. They had, they used to bring, em, these folk who go abroad, missionaries, yes, and they would give them a holiday over here and they gave these evening services to everybody. That was in the summer. Everybody walked down that road. And that was Sunday gone!
NA: And where were the services held at Rossie Priory?
JB: They have a chapel, still there, yes, it’s still there. In fact, the lady there had a Sunday school, and we went from Abernyte on a Sunday. In fact Miss Madelaine had little classes and we all went, eh, there was, there was the … Abernyte House, and well, he a was a chauffeur originally, Mr Millar, and eh, he was the worker, but eventually she had a car, but how often had she been in this car, but anyway, the two daughters older than us who organised everything and took us looked after us and walked us down that Rossie Drive on a Saturday afternoon. And the big ones were sewing things for the Chinese kiddies and as the ages went, what I did was cut pictures out of books and older ones stuck them in a book, to entertain, they went to China. It was China they were in amongst at that time. Anyway, so that’s what we did Saturdays and Sundays. [Laughs]. Time passed. Anyway, we’re back to Abernyte are we at the school?
NA: Well, could you say a bit about what you did for entertainment in the evenings ?
JB: Well in the winter time, once you were down and in our cottage that’s where you stayed. Sometimes father had maybe an odd job to get on with and he went back after tea, to his job, and come down that dark road. We had to cross the burn to go anywhere. He did fall in once! [Laughs]. Father sat at that table, George and Mary and me we played cards. We played snap or whatever, we had snakes and ladders and all these sort of games.
NA: And lighting would have been by paraffin lamp?
JB: Oh yes. We had lovely lamps. The lamp heated the place. Helped to heat it.
NA: Did you have a radio? A wireless?
JB: Never had anything like that, till we were at Inchture at that time. Because the wireless was just out. The schoolmaster had got a wireless and he took his boys over to listen to it, and the girls never went. I was quite indignant. [Laughs]. And then, where we staying you went round the pond and away past the farm and round that way as if you were going down to the church and there was a house down there, Mr and Mrs Gillies at that time. He was retired. I don’t know who they were, originally, but they were there and he got the wireless, a crystal set. So he said ‘Send Jessie around to listen to Children’s Hour’. Well, I went round to listen to Children’s Hour. Sat for an hour and never heard a word, all I heard was a lot of sparks and him fiddling about with this thing, so he never asked me again. That was the start of it then, so they were quite new.
NA: And did you ever travel into Dundee much?
JB: Yes. Well, no much, but we’d to go in and get shoes or goods. Mother would go and she usually made a day of it and …. need new frocks ? Oh well we’ll go and get new frocks. So we walked from Abernyte down to Inchture. The bus was on the go by that time. We had to walk down that road. But there was a bus came. I don’t know how long it lasted. This little bus came up as far as the Milton Farm and we got on it there a couple of times but then I think that the big lads saw that folk was going to use the bus so this mannie, Alexander --- I don’t know who it was that started it, it was Alexanders …
NA: And how often did the buses run, once it had got established, to Dundee ?
JB: Oh, not very often. It would run in the morning for the workers and then, and then maybe 10 o’clock or something it would come down and get it and then about dinnertime, I should imagine.
NA: What was the road like from Inchture to Dundee at that time? Was it tarmacadam ?
JB: I suppose that’s what it was. Well there was nothing on it originally when we were coming from Abernyte. Still carts and horses and bicycles. And there was an old man and woman in a little car. I don’t know if you ever remember these little ‘took twoey’ cars just a canvas roof I think if it rained. He was an old shepherd, but he’d bags of money. He was retired by this time, and he had this little car and that house next to Mary Duncan.
NA: Which house was this?
JB: There’s two houses where Mary is. Don’t know who’s in the other one just now. The man in there worked on the roads. He chopped all these stones, you know, heaps of stones, and , little openings in the side of the road and somebody come along with a load of stones and he stood there and chopped them and then when the road had a hole, somebody came along and filled the hole with his chopped stones. Pile, Pile, I shouldn’t have forgotten that because the fella was a chum of my brothers. He was an Arthur John. He married this lassie Pile, and Mary Duncan’s father, Mary Duncan (I’m calling her Mary Duncan, of course she was Mary, Mary whatever she was. So that’s where they stayed, that couple, that’s where they stayed at that house, this old couple that had the wee car. Now where were we? [Laughs]
NA: We were having a wander around -- it doesn’t matter, it’s all interesting! What I wanted to ask you was about was what sort of meals did people have at that time; what was the standard mealtimes in the day ?
JB Well most folk had porridge for their breakfast, soup for their dinner, because they had all these vegetables in the garden. What they had for tea I don’t know but a lot of them would be better, better than we had. In the dead of winter, you know, we werena bad if George could go out and catch a couple of rabbits. And the butcher came once a week, but sometimes nobody could get near the place with bad weather. We used to live on rabbits and he use to manage to catch a dove or a pigeon.
NA: And the butcher came round in a van with a horse ?
JB: Aye, it must have been. He’d a van in the village, so we had to run along the laney through the den to that end of the road but Mother couldna afford much butcher meat! [Laughs]. But, you lived on the garden, that’s what you did, you had your porridge, and rice puddin’, sugar puddin’, all they things. You got them for tuppence a pound or something like that. But we got --- well the prices went with your income. Bits and pieces and … Dumpling -- dumpling was the staple diet, we had dumpling every Sunday. [Laughs]. Aye, but, eh, I suppose if you were on a farm you could ha’ lots of, you could have hens and what else. Your old hens. My Auntie at Fettercairn had a wee farmie, and she sent down an old hen every Christmas. Sent it by the train, just gutted, and somebody who was down at the station would collect, find it there and bring it up [Laughs]. So mother had this big fat hen to pluck and clean. And that was our Christmas dinner. Aye.
JB: Well actually this started because my son Randall has been talking to somebody and he brought up this about these two houses. At one time there was one of the houses was burnt and the woman in it was burnt as well and the house next door wasn’t touched. And that couple I was talking never knew such a thing happened, till they heard the kirk bell ringing, somebody had spotted the fire but it was too late. There was nobody, by the time anybody got there. This was what started this, so I’m coming up the way from the Free Church and you went, up the -- came up the field and there were steps down and you come up the, went down the bottom of the Manse garden and you come along there, there was a gate there and it was a right of way to go to the church and there was a wee set of little steps. Down that was down below the field, just beside these two houses. Then you came round about and over the pond where our house was and there was a joiner’s place down there that had been a hive of industry at one time in that corner, seemingly, and little houses and everything.
NA: This is all in the Den, behind the Milton?
JB: Yes. You go round, and then to Milton Farm. And then you cross the pond to where we were, and there’s a sawmill down there. We used to play there a lot as well. Fresh water, we’d to get it from the spring and go to the burn water to do the washing. And, what I was trying to say was this, you’d go right round and you’d go through a stile place and up the side of the field. and that was called the Kale Roadie.
NA: Kale Roadie. That connected the two churches?
JB: Yes. That’s where we went through. At the top there was an old man in there that had the wee house, at the church, up there. It’s not there now, I don’t know how long its been gone. [Laughs]. But it’s not there now. My mother was friendly with her and she used to tak me with her. He looked after the church and he had this roadie, kept the grass cut all summer. And they were called Johnson, it suddenly came to me one night. Johnson’s his name.
And then, Balwhillans. You went behind the Knowes and across over the burn and there was these cottages
NA: Oh yes, the ruins up there now, yup.
JB: Yes, yes, Balwhillans, yes. Well, there was a ploughman in there that worked on the Milton Farm. He had a big family. I remember once -- how did I go home with him once ? I think we must have had a half day at the school and we got away off, and he says ‘Och come home wi’us’. They were boiling potatoes, they had, they were to feed the hens when they come home from the school and they’d left these big pots of, old, you know the little tatties that they threw out, throw to the pigs, well they kept so much for the hens, you know, so they picked the best of them out. There they were, you peeled the skin off, they were gorgeous. [Laughs]. And I no told my mother what I was doing. Anyway that was Balwhillans away up there. Then we had --- Granny Robb stayed at the Knowes, far end. She looked after the school. And Granny Robb, she smoked a pipe.
NA: She was a sort of a caretaker at the school, was she?
JB: Aye, she cleaned and made the dinners, made the soup, all the rest of it.
NA: What sort of pipe was it, do you recall?
JB: Aye well that was Granny Robb. Canna mind what happened to her. Och she couldna stop in there, maybe she was still there when I left, Granny. Then, you came down after you passed the school, you ken at the joiners shop, you’re going up the way this time. They even made me mother a wardrobe, not a wardrobe, a big press, we carted that to Inchture, huge press it was.
And there was Lizzie Greig became the telephone lady.
NA: She was the telephone operator then for Abernyte.
JB: Yes. She showed us it once and that was it, ‘Don’t go near it !’ [Laughs]. She was guarding it. Then there was a Mrs Shaw, lived at one house as you’re going up that way, round the corner there. I never saw a man about that place. Whether he’d been in the war or not, I never knew. And there was a big house on the opposite side. It’s not there now, its been knocked down for a long time, so it probably fell down. There was an old lady supposed to be in there, that had loads of money [Laughs. It was a big house and that, a garden. Farther up, my friend John stayed up there. I used to go and play with him. They had a stable and then there was a loft and John and I were up there playing houses in this loft, and pretending, there was this house. It was a fine place to play. [Laughs]. And then, of course, the field up that way was just a field, it’s all built on now, isn’t it. Jim Ramsay’s brother, and then there was the MacGregors, that’s it, MacGregors, who lives there now then is it ? Because these MacGregors, there were the two boys, the two boys, were shepherds and they retired and went down to Errol somewhere to stay. I saw Lizzie, the one that kept house for them, it was in the doctors one day when we looked at each other, ‘Oh grand!’