The Story of My Life. Chapter 2

A Very Ordinary Story

Chapter 2


After my father's death all thoughts of staying at Carnbee were gone and my mother took me to live with her parents in St Monans.They were very good to both of us and I was really brought up by my Granny and Grandpa Miller. They were both wonderful people. I had a sheltered upbringing and am sure could not have done better under any other circumstances. We lived in the family home in Rose Street along with two of my uncles, Willie and Mackie, who eventually got married and left the parental home. My Granny Minnie (pronounced locally – Meenie) was an excellent cook and we ate very well indeed. There was sometimes porridge and always an egg in some shape or form for breakfast. The main meal was in the middle of the day, usually of three courses. The best soup was made every Friday (cleaning day). Boiling beef was used to make the stock for the 'kail' (scotch broth), and it had just about everything in it - turnip (sliced), carrots, peas - the hard variety, barley, onion brussels sprouts, to name but a few. After the kail, the main dish consisted of the boiling beef, it always seemed to have a lot of fat on it, and the turnip slices taken from the soup along with 'chappies' - mashed potatoes and at least one other vegetable. Of course, there was always pudding, more often than not, baked rice. I used to love the brown skin, which formed on top of the dish. My Granny cooked liver, sweetbreads as well as all the other cuts of beef, lamb and pork and of course fish and shellfish mainly partans (edible crabs) or lobsters, all caught locally. On Sunday, it was roast beef with all the trimmings. Sunday lunch was always quite an occasion. A far-off relation, Lizzie Lindsay, known by all as 'Wifie' came home from Church with us to have lunch, I think we called it dinner in those days. I attribute my longevity to the solid foundation of good food I had as a boy, both at St Monans and on the farm. The Lindsay's were connected to us through marriage. My Granny Meenie was a Phillips and her sister, Beatrice, was married to a Thomas Lindsay, who ran a draper's shop in St Monans and all were on very friendly terms

The house at St Monans had a huge garden and in it, instead of the usual garden shed, was a fairly large building, shaped like the prow of a boat, and, of course, it was referred to as 'The Ship'. Inside it consisted of a living area, complete with gas cooker, but no running water, a bedroom with a double bunk bed. In the 'fo'castle' were two typical fishing boat type berths. During the summer months, when she let out her house in Elie to holidaymakers, my Aunt Lizzie and her family; husband Bob Stevens, my cousins, son David and daughter Minnie lived in it. When it was vacant, my pals and myself used it often as a play place during inclement weather and, at Halloween, when 'The Ship' was unoccupied, we used to 'dook' for apples', using a wash tub, half filled with water with the apples floating on top. More often than not one had to get the apple right to the bottom of the tub to get a bite at it. Another ploy at Halloween time was to try to bite a scone, covered with treacle, which was dangling on the end of a piece of string. In both cases, the hands were held firmly behind your back.

Immediately behind the 'Ship' were other outbuildings, a henhouse with a small henrun. My grandfather kept a few hens and of course, we were self sufficient for eggs and the occasional cockerel for a meal. Beyond the henhouse was a building that I suppose would be called a garden shed. As I grew older it became my favourite 'workplace'. Beyond that again was the washhouse with its washboiler, the water in it was heated by means of a fire underneath it. There was always plenty of fuel for the fire as the washhouse was quite near to the huge steam boiler that provided steam for steaming planks (to make them pliable) for the boatyard.The odd job man, 'Old Keith', always had a good supply of wooden blocks to keep the boiler fire going. The washhouse had its complement of washing tubs and barrels, 'dolly' sticks and scrubbing boards. Doing the washing was really hard work in those days.

The Pump

Rose Street, where the family house was, had no roses but was so called because two sandstone gate pillars at the entrance to a garden at the end of street had roses carved on them. It was, and still is a narrow and quite short street, complete with a 'pump'; at least that is what we called it. It was a public water supply as many houses had no running water in those days. There were several pumps like these scattered throughout the town.
This picture shows some members of my familystanding round the Rose Street pump. They are (l to r) - my uncle Willie, his wife Jeannie, Grandpa and Granny Miller, my mother,Phemie (Euphemia), aunt Lizzie and cousin Jenny, daughter of Willie and Jeannie.
Adjoining my grandfather's house was another house called Ivybank, which I think was the original family home as it had a more direct connection to the boatyard. Actually the two houses had at one time been separate buildings, but, before my time, an addition to my grandfather's house had been made that joined the houses together.

This addition allowed a scullery (it was too small to be called a kitchen, and a bathroom to and an additional bedroom to be provided. The garret part of the extension became my bedroom.  My great-aunt Bella (my grandfather's sister and a spinster) lived in the house next door, she had been a schoolteacher and spent her retirement actively engaged in the BWTA (British Women's Temperance Association).


Every year she ran a concert on New Years day for the benefit of the local pensioners, appropriately called ' The Old Folk's Tea', where they were provided with a meal and given a poke (paper bag) of 'goodies' and a half-pound packet of tea, on leaving. I was involved in the concert party at a very early age and this photo shows me, a very shy small boy with my velvet suit and pearl buttons alongside my great aunt.

My pre-school days are only a hazy recollection. The highlights of which were being taken to my grandfather's farm on occasions to visit my paternal grandparents.

School Days 1922 to 1935

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