Does anybody, anywhere have a photograph of Gayfield Place? Talking with Douglas (McMillan) McKerral recently she asked me if I had one, saying that she and her brother Pat (Bender) had been looking for one for many moons. Even my cousin, Angus Martin, has failed to find one. If anyone has one, they could, if they were willing, allow either Douglas or Angus to copy it. Seems like an am
Some time ago I received a letter from a friend who asked if I had any photographs of Gayfield Place. I couldn’t recall ever having seen one at any time and my subsequent search confirmed my fears, I didn’t have one! I posted a request on Kintyre Forum, hoping that someone could help.
AND HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED!
To my surprise, this posting brought forth quite a large response but no-one had the photograph I wanted to see, a full frontal view of the building until Caroline Lounsbury, daughter of my late cousin, Carol Timms (M.S. McCallum), sent me several from her home in New York. Caroline had been in Campbeltown not long before when her mother died, and had thankfully preserved her mother’s collection of old photographs. They showed much of the front of the building as seen from Saddell Street and had been almost certainly taken by my maternal aunt, Sarah Martin. They show most, but not all of the building. However, the wing I had lived in was not visible!
The posts on Kintyre Forum revealed what was, to me, a surprising lack of knowledge of the building and of its location. These failings, as I saw them, compelled me to do something, hence this essay. However, since I started writing this I discovered a link, posted on Kintyre Forum, to a site that shows just about all that I wanted of Gayfield Place, albeit of rather poor quality photographs.
Gayfield Place stood just across the road from Broom Cottage, on the north side of the junction of Saddell Street or Broom Brae, as we knew it, and High Street. Around five concrete steps – which must have been around twenty feet long, led from High Street to the building level. Your editor, my cousin, Angus Martin, tells me that he has read that it was built in 1866 for one Alex Allan. There may be some sort of error in this as it is described as being a two storey building. No matter who had it built, rent was paid to a letting agent, Mr McArthur, better known as ‘The Scout’, a man of whom the tenants stood in some awe!
The central part of Gayfield Place was three stories high, each story having four ‘apartments’ that consisted of a room and a kitchen. On each end of the building there were an additional four apartments, this time just two stories high. This gave a grand total of twenty apartments. However, all of the top story houses had the advantage of an extra room in the shape of an ‘attic’. These attics were quite large, big enough for two double beds, and had a window that afforded a view south toward Lochend Church. This magnificent church building has been demolished and Tesco’s car park has replaced it! My mother, although born in Princes Street, ‘flitted’ with her parents, Duncan and Caroline Martin, to an apartment on the top flight of the central part of the building, early in her life.
The house into which I was born in 1935 (followed by my brother, Billy, in 1941) was on the top of the western two story part, and its only door was reached by way of a semi-circular stairway at the back of the building. These stairs were open to the elements. Our house, being on the top floor, was one that benefited from the extra attic. The small porch inside the main - in fact the only entrance door - led in turn to the kitchen which had a ‘set-in’ double bed. There was a large kitchen table in the middle of this room. The front room, the ‘parlour’, housed a double bed and was generally reserved for rare special occasions. A very steep and narrow stairway led from the kitchen to the attic. There was a small fireplace in the attic and in the parlour but the kitchen housed the coal stove on which, when I was very young, all of the cooking was done. There was a black cast-iron sink below the window that faced toward the rear of the building. It was fitted with a brass tap that supplied cold water via the now outlawed lead pipes! Was there not a hot water tap? Don’t be daft; such luxuries were for the future! The house was lit by gas, a system that gave good light but which got me into trouble more than once when I was not careful enough and touched the extremely fragile mantle when lighting it with a paper spill! The gas lighting was replaced by electricity when I was still quite young.
Bathing, a once per week event, was in a zinc bath in front of the kitchen fire and the water was heated in pots on the gas cooker. The toilet was outside, two steps from our front door, and was shared by two households. Toilet paper was a luxury that I don’t believe I had heard of then, so sheets of newspaper were cut into squares and fitted on to large nails that protruded from the sides of the lavatory walls. Ours was on the right-hand side as you entered and our neighbours, the MacLachlans (yes, each family had its own toilet paper) was on the left. I won’t claim that I never pinched some of theirs, but it was a guilt-laden affair if I did! The doors into the bottom houses were at the front of the building. This meant a much longer trip for the occupants, who had to walk through the close and along the back of the building to their toilet, which was directly below ours unless, as sometimes happened, they crawled out of the back window.
On a cold winter night our mother would light the attic fire. This entailed her carrying a shovelful of burning coals up the steep stairs and emptying it into the attic fireplace. Health and Safety? This was done an hour or so before bedtime but a trip downstairs, out of the door and across the open landing to the toilet on a cold winter night, was not an event I relished. I cunningly, or so I thought, devised another way around this problem which involved my carefully and quietly raising the window and peeing out on to the slates. This worked wonderfully well until someone asked my mother what was causing the white marks on the slates. Back to the cold trip downstairs again! It may be my imagination, but I do believe that the marks on the slates are visible in one of the photos I unearthed.
Getting into the courtyard behind Gayfield from the front involved going through the close which passed between the first and second house in the three story building, or by the second close that was situated between the first and second house in the eastern two story block. This courtyard was home to the four washing houses that served all the building’s occupants. The washing houses were equipped with two ‘Belfast’ sinks and had a large cast iron boiler with a fire place beneath. Alongside these washing houses were the coal stores – one for each house. All of these buildings butted against the high retaining wall which held back the ground that sloped steeply up behind them.
There were stairs at both the western and the eastern ends of this wall. They gave access to a steep path that led up to the large drying greens that were situated on a flat grassy area. The ladies in the building had to carry wet clothes up the steep stairs and path to this drying green. For drying smaller articles of washing, nearly everyone had a light line that led, through pulleys, from the balconies to an anchoring point on top of the retaining wall.
Mr. Johnston (Brogie) who is named below, was the building’s ‘handy man’. He was, I believe, given a reduction in his rent in return for doing odd repair work around the building and for keeping the drains, into which the rain water that came off the roof was channelled, clear of mud. He did NOT like young lads, so we kept out of his way as much as possible!
At an early stage in the Second World War rudimentary air-raid shelters were built at several points on the hillside, but I have no recollection of ever having had to be taken to them. On the night of the air raid that killed several Navy personnel (I had it in my mind that they were WRNS, but have been corrected) when a bomb hit the Royal Hotel. I remember vividly seeing what I now know was tracer being fired skyward when I was being taken from my grandfather’s house in Saddell Street, I think it was number 38, where we must have been staying, downstairs to shelter beneath the table in Mr. Lang’s house. They lived below my uncle Henry Martin – who was my grandfather’s next-door neighbour. Just what help the kitchen table would have been in the event of a bomb hitting the house, I do not know! The late Ian Stewart’s father and another man were also killed during this raid when a mine, intended for the entrance to the Loch, struck his house and detonated. Although I cannot now verify the facts, I clearly recall having been told that the German authorities apologised on the radio for this mine having landed where it did, instead of in the sea. At this early stage in the war this tale is entirely possible. My late uncle, Duncan Martin, who served as an Air Raid Warden recovered a piece of nylon cord that had attached the mine to its parachute and gave part of it to my late mother. I recently passed most of this cord to John Stewart, grandson of the man who was killed.
Although I am well aware that my attempts at naming some of the following people who lived in Gayfield Place during my time there will leave me wide open to attack, I will try it! I have had a great deal of help in this from Douglas McKerral (McMillan), Cecil Finn and Margaret Brown (MacBrayne), all of whom have infinitely better memories than I do. The children’s names are NOT in any order, neither alphabetic nor by age. Parent’s Christian names have been omitted.
The two story building on the west end, naming from the Dalintober School side (West to East) and top to bottom.
Mr. Mrs. McLachlan, Margaret, Mary, James, John, Kenneth, Duncan, Willie.
Mr. Mrs. Ralston. Tommy & Billy
Mr.& Mrs. McFadyen, Johnny, Margaret, Marion, Agnes, Lizzie.
Mr.& Mrs. McMillan. Peter (Pat), Nan, Douglas (Mrs. McKerral), Ishbel
Top floor, central building, again starting from the school end.
Mr. & Mrs. McIver: Dick, Angus, Jenny, Fannie, Ina.
Mr. & Mrs. Finn: Jeanette, Cecil.
Mr. & Mrs. Terry. Nancy.
Mr.& Mrs Gillies. Jim, Archie, Anna.
MacAuley - Annie, and her brother, Willie
Mr. & Mrs. Coffield. Willie, John, James, Martin, Alec, Charlie, Margaret, Jessie, Mary, Jane, Renee.
Mr. & Mrs Muir. Jean, Arthur, Margaret, Elsie.
Mr. & Mrs. MacBrayne. Duncan, Willie, Colin, Campbell, Mary, Netta, Jean, Nan, Margaret.
Mr. Donald Brown.
Mr. & Mrs. MacMaster. Ella, Fiona.
Mr. Johnston (Brogie)
Small building at eastern end.
Mr. Mrs Anderson. Bobby, Charlie Archie
Mr. & Mrs. McLachlan. Margaret, Mary, John, Dan, Norman, Clifford.
Mr. & Mrs. Rankin. Archie, Alec, Jean, Molly.
Mr. & Mrs. Morris, Pat.
Some of these people are still alive, and hopefully may get in touch when they see this article in the Kintyre Antiquarian Magazine.
We were well served by the shops nearby; very few groceries had to be carried for more than 100 yards! Just across the street from Gayfield Place, on the corner of Broombrae and High Street we had the Co-Operative store which sold meat as well as groceries and which also had its own bakery attached. I think the manager, when I was young, was a Mr. Souden.
This bakery is where the bulk of the housewives had their pies baked, steak pies which in those days were the great Christmas and New Year treats. Turkeys? What were they?
The meat was cooked by the housewives and was then taken to the bake house in a pie dish which had the owner’s name carefully printed on the side.
There, it was covered with pastry and baked so that it was ready at the specified time. The gossips (and there were plenty of them) used to state maliciously that the bakers never needed to buy meat, they just stole a piece or two from each pie dish; a slander totally without foundation in my opinion!
Down Broombrae, and just a few steps from the Co-Op there was a wee shop where an old bearded man mended clocks. I believe that he was a Jewish refugee from war-torn Belgium. His name, I think, was Mr. Kramer and I recall being very afraid of him though I hasten to add that he neither did, nor said anything to justify this fear. There might (and here my hazy memory turns even darker) have also been someone, before or after the Belgian man, who did boot and shoe repairs in this shop.
The next shop down the Brae was run by Mary Taylor. I recall her selling wee plates of cooked peas that were well soaked in vinegar. She also sold cigarettes and was a favourite of we budding smokers as she sold packs of 5 Woodbine cigarettes and would, as these packs were open at the top, have a packet ready from which she would sell one or two cigarettes to those of us who couldn’t afford a packet of five.
The next shop, a small general grocer as I remember was, I think, owned by a Mr. Smith. This shop was later run by the Gulliver family who later sold it to Betty Finn, Cecil’s mother. This shop also sold alcohol and this is where old Donald Brown, one evening, bought a pair of bottles of Pale Ale. Well, Donald ‘ran cutter’ for them, having been financed by myself and one of my pals - who will remain nameless. He and I shared one; Donald had the other for himself!
Glundy’s renowned fish and chip shop was next, on the corner of John Street and Saddell Street. This shop used to close for quite long periods when the potatoes were considered as not being quite good enough for his chips. I don’t believe I ever tasted better fish suppers anywhere. Again, Cousin Angus tells me that Glundy’s chip shop had originally been yet another bakery but I have no recollection of that.
Across the road, close by the Benmore Garage, was another baker, Joe Black. The only thing I recall about his shop is that during the war he occasionally – when he could muster the ingredients - made chocolate buns. I can still recall the excited childrens’ shouts when they went on sale - remember this was in the war years, and sugar was on ration! They were simply a plain bun that was decorated with a thin layer of chocolate on the top; not great fare by today’s standards but in those austere days, they were a rare treat.
Further up the Brae again, directly across the road from my grandfather’s house was Dougie Smith’s butcher’s shop. It backed on to MacDonald’s orchard. This extensive orchard area grew mainly apples, but by the time I was old enough to scale the wall to ‘scrump’ apples, it had become rather run down. It stretched north from Benmore garage to High Street and west on Dalaruan Street, past Dalintober School and almost to New Parliament Place.
I remember that during a wartime training exercise involving the Home Guard and Commandos, a semi-tracked vehicle called a Bren Gun Carrier accidentally demolished a part of the orchard wall, just opposite the entrance to the Dalintober School. Sadly this breach of the orchard’s security was of no use to us because at that time of year the apples were not ready to eat!
Fresh milk was delivered and measured into our jugs from the milk churns that came daily by horse and cart from the Barbour family farm, Low Dalrioch. It was usually driven by the lovely Maggie Barbour, a lady who displayed an enormous amount of patience with us youngsters. This delivery would not be allowed today, I suppose, as it would contravene the dreaded ‘Elf ‘n Safety’ rules. Many times I, with one or two of my pals, would be taken on her cart to the farm, when her delivery round was finished. Occasionally, Maggie would allow us to ‘drive the cart’ – well, to hold the reins for a wee spell. On the farm we played around the outbuildings until Mrs. Barbour, Maggie’s mother, appeared mid-afternoon - with a tea tray laden with home baked scones and pancakes smothered with – wonder of wonders – home made jam AND butter. What a treat in those far off days of rationing!
When available, fresh fish was sold from a small hand cart owned by the redoubtable Mr. Smith, better known to all as ‘Smeesh’. I can clearly recall him shouting, “Fresh fish – mewleroy”. My young ears had of course misheard this and for ages I wondered at just what ‘mewleroy’ meant until I asked my mother about it. She laughed as she informed me that he was in fact shouting, “Fresh fish, newly arrived”!
I have a, sadly hazy, recollection of my mother taking me to the front of the building to witness the final time the gas street lighting would be turned on by the ‘Leery man’, the gas lighting having been replaced by electricity. That may have been shortly before the start of the war. This gentleman carried a long pole with which he turned on the gas control that was situated at the top of the standard. Sadly, I cannot remember how he lit the gas! Some years ago I was regaling two American cousins of my mother with tales of the old days in Campbeltown. They, Lisa Windham and Sandi Spencer, live in California and are descended from the Martins of Dalintober. When I told them that we also had a man in the town known as the ‘knocker up man’ whose job was to go around knocking up people who needed a wake up call by chapping at their windows, they were reduced to fits of laughter, as being ‘knocked up’ has a totally different meaning in the U.S of A!
Gang warfare! Oh aye, we had gang wars then also - or rather we prepared for either repelling impending attacks on our territory, or for launching raids on neighbouring ones. There were, we believed, active gangs of youngsters that operated in Dalaruan, Millknowe, Park Square and other, even further off parts of the town. Secret meetings were held in or around Gayfield Place at which plans were drawn up and everyone, except the girls, was told to arm themselves – bits of stick were weapons of choice - in preparation for war! Girls were not expected to take part in this armed conflict but were told to prepare bandages for our wounded!
Needless to say, these ‘wars’ never took place? The impending raids were certainly a product of someone’s over-fertile imagination and we soon moved on to the next phase of our growing up.
Games – tig, aleevo, kick the can – they were all similar ‘chasing’ games - all had their place in our busy lives. A rare – because of the lack of money – visit to one of the town’s cinemas would lead to our fashioning rough ‘swords’ if the film we saw was of the ‘Zorro’ or ‘Three Musketeers’ variety or pistols, when we saw a Western. Many duels to the death were fought in or around Gayfield, and we all died many times over as we galloped around on, and were shot off our imaginary horses! We also clocked up countless miles running around the town rolling old car tyres with us as we went. The more affluent among us actually had girds, as we called them instead of tyres. These were round strips of metal – perhaps the circumference of slim pencils - that had been formed into circles. Metal ‘Cleeks’ were used to propel and guide these girds whereas the tyres were pushed along by hand. These ‘cleeks’ were designed to clip around the girds.
The girds were lighter, faster and far more manoeuvrable – and so were much more desirable than the heavy tyres!
I have no recollection of being bored, except when I went to the secondary school and homework – which I detested - was foisted on me. There was always something to do with our pals, though some of our ploys would nowadays be classed as ‘hooliganism’!
Old Donald Brown, who lived in the close in the main building was the subject of much criticism from the ladies, their main complaint centring around his habit of hanging his ‘long johns’ out to dry from his front window in plain view of all passers by! Donald, who hailed from Carradale, had been a fisherman in his young days and both Cecil Finn and myself learned much from his vast fund of folklore and sat by his fire for many hours on the long winters’ nights, being taught how to mend nets by practising on scraps of old netting. In some ways I suppose he took the place of our fathers who were serving in the Forces.
None of the people who lived in Gayfield Place had much money or material wealth, but there was a lot that perhaps the ‘know it all’ pundits of today could learn from a close study of how neighbours really did help one another in that era, in their hour of need and I honestly believe that we were better off in many ways, than today’s youngsters are.
The building is now long demolished and its site, haunted by so many memories, lies abandoned and undeveloped - except for part of it which is now incorporated in the school playground.
Last edited by Tommy Ralston
on Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:20 am, edited 2 times in total.