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Elphinstone Kist   Folk-History, Work, Place

My Life     by: Brown, John

Collected by Jock Duncan

I wis born on the Hill o Dudwick in 1897. My fadder hid the place o Hillbrae o Arnage – a placie o near a hunner acre.

I hid twa bridders an twa sisters an a’ll tell ye there wis nae wint o werk tulls aa – na, there wis nae sittin doon for us. There wis aye plenty o nowt to sort, neeps to poo an of coorse the nowt to muck, an row the muck up inti a midden ootside. Then there wis rucks ti thrash wi wir horse mull that took twa horses tae caa it. Roon an roon I caad them for aboot the twa hoors it took ti thrash a ruck. Anidder bridder trailed by the strae wi a sister ti tramp the strae an the neist bridder forket the shaves aff the barn fleer on ti the mull platform for ma fadder ti feed them inti the piket drum – the mull rollers trailed in the shaves efter he cuttet the band an spread the shafies oot.

Of coorse, we took in the ruckies inaa bit only een at a time. Noo efter the thrash wis by we aa helpit ti fan the caff oot o the corn an ony orra shealicks wi the winister. This wis far ye fed aa the corn inti the happer o’t aff the fleer an caad the fan(winister) handle an as the stuff gid throwe the machine the caff gid fleein oot the back o’t an the corn cam doon ae spoot at the side an shealicks doon the idder een. We baggit the corn an cairryt it up inti the laft efter the thrash aff the fleer. Oor mull wis fit wis caad a ‘Maithers’ een.

We aa gwid ti Arnage scweelie – the Dominie’s name wis Calder. I canna mind fit ye caad the Missie. We hid a mile an a half ti gang o coorse cairt road tult an cam oot at Allan’s the shoppie at Fitecairns. This mannie wis a grocer it traivelled the country-side wi horse grocer van gan ti aa the ferms an crafts tradin in eggs an cheese or kebbik as it wis caad – the hame-made variety it wi likit sae weel. My midder did at, an she made dashed gweed kebbik tee an breed anaa. This is fit we took ti the scweel – kebbik an breed made fae wir ain corn. A puckle o’t wis teen doon to the mullert an fin the meal cam hame it wis putten inti the meal girnel. Noo, the smell that cam aff the girnel wis maist extrordner. An, of coorse, nae ti forget the hame made butter my midder made aa the time ti ging alang wi the breed that she bakit on the peat – the girdle hung fae the swy abeen the cwiles. Of coorse, the quines aye hid plenty ti dee ana, fit wi milkin coos an caain the churn an reddin up.

We aye got the stem mull in aboot a day ti thrash a puckle rucks ti tak by the winter storms; fin ye couldna get aboot for blin smore an a gweed store o heeded neeps wis coupit tee tul the byre steadin ti lest oot anaa.

Efter the stem mull wis by we fulled oor beds wi new caff. This took wir beds hine inti the air an, man, they war a lot hetter as weel. It wisna lang afore they gid doon again though. Still it wis gweed fun riggin iss great fat beds an tryin ti clim in ower.

There wis nae slack time for us mornin an nicht an Setterday tee, bit there wis ae thing come fit may – we nivver vrocht on a Sunday. We gid ti Savoch kirk, a gye lang wye awa.
In simmer we gid barefit ti scweel ti save wir beets, bit wi hid ti weer some bachels for wirkin on the lan – I mean the stibbles war gye sair on the soles o wir feet. I mind the dubs an goor wirkin in atween yer taes fin it wis weet, fin wi wir barefit.

At hairst we cuttit entry butts roon the corn parks ti lat in the horse an the reaper. My fadder caad the reaper an we aa, quines an aa, bun aa the shafies o corn left bi the reaper an then stookit the bun shaves. This wis a gye lang draan oot affair wi aa the acres ti dee, an files if the widder wis weet, we hid ti dee stook parade an at wis a gye heed swaalin business – biggin up soakin weet shaves again ti lat them catch the dryin win an this jobbie soakit ye ti the skin again – nae ileskins en ye see – na, na, we couldna affoord at. Then, if the widder wis ower mochie ti lead, we hid ti turn the stooks ootside in ti try an stop the corn growin.

There wis some o the big ferms wis startit usin the ‘Woods’ binder that hid jist cam oot, bit I canna tell ye if it wis American or no. Ma fadder got a second han een in the end an it fairly eesed wir burden. Of coorse, the leadin took a filie bit it’s winnerfu fit twa cairts did ti come speed, fit wi aa us loons an quines takin turns at forkin an biggin on the lan an forkin shaves ti ma fadder on the rucks.

We wis aa weel up ti the scythe fin we war loons, lang afore leavin the scweel, we hid ti dee onything that noat deein aboot the ferm. Then I mind a great storm o blin drift - an it wis bad onywye on the Hill o Dudwick – far we hid ti dig wirsels oot o the hoose an dig wirsels in ti the stable an byre ti sort the beasts. The sna lay a lang time at eer tee an there wis naething fort bit cast the roads tee. I mind takkin the horses oot in the parks pullin a puddock jist ti gie the craturs exercise pullin the thing throue the sna.

My fadder syne took anidder place – a smaaer een iss time awa doon at
Tillymaud.There he vrocht aa day at the brickworks an the place at nicht an wickends wi the help o masel. Ma idder brithers war awa fae scweel or at time. Eence I fulled in drains ma fadder hid pit in. Fin I wis 14 I left the scweel an gid ti Ellon feein market. It wis easy getting a job wi aa that fairmers there needin chiels. First they tried ma on wi a smaaer fee than I socht, I winted five poun, bit I held oot an at length got it fae a mannie Taylor o a place near Ellon; a three pair toon. Of coorse, the mannie kent fit I could dee an fe-et ma as little baillie ti poo neeps an sort 25 beasts: neep, muck, strae an bed. There wis the twa milker kye amon them tee, fit the deem milkit. Noo, I wis richt prood o masel an coontit masel a gye cheil on ma first fee even though I hid sax month ti wite fort.

There wis a horse mull ont that threesh a ruck at a time. This noat a pair o horse ti caa. We sleepit up in the chammer abeen the hie shed an it wis a cald ploy in the winter, bit Mrs. Taylor gids aa a pig an that fairly helpit keep ye het in bed. There wis nae fire.

We raise oot o wir beds at five an I started sortin the stirks tull half sax(5.30a.m.); then I followed the foremen inti the kitchie far we made wir ain brose. The deem hid the kettle bilin aa ready an we filled in speenfus o meal inti wir brosecaps wi a pucklie o saut. Then we poored in bilin watter an steered – the foremen first, of coorse. Then we got seated an ilkey body hid a bowl o milk that hid bin poored oot the nicht afore an man ye shid hae seen the cream sittin on the tap. Ye poored it in an suppit it – an it wis richt fine tee.

I bade er an eer an then gid back ti Ellon an fe-et hame ti Chaser o Mains o Auchquarny; this time ti caa a third pair – this wis clips that hid ti be yokit. This feein business wis great fun, an at the ine ot the fermer aye gid ye a shillin for arles – this wis ti mak it a bargain. Noo at Ellon at day wis a tailor fae Auchnagatt caaed Coburn that measured ye up for a suit an his price wis £5 although ye hid three month ti wite fort. Anidder lad selt tackety beets an at’s anidder thing ye couldna dee withoot.

Ma midder lookit efter ma siller tull I wis saxteen an efter at time I startit smokin a clay pipe: an ounce o bogie roll cost sax an a half pennies an ye got a clay pipe free weet.

I gid hame ti Chaser’s an yokit the clips – got a han wi at. We jist traiveled ae beast roon on a lang rine pullin a loadie on a theat, then we yokit the idder een the same wye. Efter at we put ae clip at a time inti the ploo wi a meer time aboot, for a yokin or twa, tull they got eesed wi that. Then they were yokit thegidder ti ploo on their ain. This I did ahin the foreman an second lad an, of coorse, we aa plooed wir ain rig bit I hid a deevil o a job keepin the clips back ahin them, they war aye gan ower fest – weel it taks a lang time for clips ti settle doon an it wisna the deen thing ti pass yir superiors in rank if ye ken fit I mean, I wis only the third billie an only a learner.

I got a fee o ten poun fae Chaser an at wis a fair hackie up. Wir mait wis the brose in the mornin ilkey day. Monday denner wis broth an tatties. Tuesday wis second days broth an tatties ti the denner. Then on Wednesday there wid maybe be stovies, followed on Thursday wi tattie soup. On Friday there wis maybe chappit tatties an on Setterday we maybe files got skirlie. That wisna aye like at, files there wis hare soup or rabbit stew if the mannie hid been oot shottin. For supper there wis brose, aa kines o them, kail, neep or knotty tams. Or rice puddin or pottage. An then there wis plenty o breed an milk for denner an plenty o breed an kebbick ti the supper an milk tee. At Chaser’s we nivver saa an egg or a bittie beef aa the time I wis er.

There wis a fire in the chammer er though that burned peat, the first since I’d been fe’ed. They got a mannie contracted ivery eer ti cast their peats bit we did aa the idder wark on them like spread them oot ti dry, an en turn them still on the grun. Efter at, fin they war half wun, we rickled them inti thingies like stooks wi aboot ten ti the rickle. Then efter aboot anidder wick o that – aa depennin on the widder ye ken – they war coontit wun eneuch ti tak hame ti the hoose door an big a peatstack. So I caad them hame wi shelvins on the cairts; far idder folk barrowed them oot an helpit ma load up, an idder folk biggit the peatstack an that wis a fikey job, ye jist aye slopit in the raas o peats iss wye ye ken. Peats were aye handled atween the heoy an the hie an the hairst. Aa the same the clips did fine an, mind ye, this wis them on the cairt for the first time.

There wis nae holiday although we got a half day aff for the Ellon Show an anidder half day aff for the Mintlaw Show. Ye see we workit sax days the wick. There wis the Feein Markit day an the Term Day an that wis fit wis termed holidays.

I bade at Chaser’s tull I wis 17 an fin the War started I attenned a recruitin meetin at Hatton far a great lot o ferm billies turned up. Maist o the lads jined the Gordons bit I jined up in the Naval Division. I wis called up at eence – this wis in August 1914 an wis puttin doon ti Crystal Palace an started drillin. We sleepit in hammocks. I canna tell ye fit wye min bit I took ill wi flu or something an laaned up in hospital far I wis discharged efter a wee file. Noo, I nivver wis a day nae weel in ma life an hid ti gang ti London ti get it. Onywye they didna like the look o ma an sent ma hame.

Fin I got hame I fe-et doon ti a mannie at the Martinmas term 1914 ti Springhill o Langside. This wis a fair size placie, wi twa pair an an orra beast an gid hame as foreman. Gweed men war getting scarce by iss time. Bit aa ma billies I wis fe-et wi, an maist idder lads I kent, war awa in the Gordons so I only stuck her tull the Witsunday Term an gid doon ti Peterheid an joined the 5th. Gordons er. I wis teen awa at eence. I managed ti pull throue aa richt though I got ae severe wound; an fin it wis aa ower – I actually cam oot wi a suitie an saxty poun for aa ma pains an di ye ken iss – saxty poun wis a fortune in those days.

I started ti fee again an gid hame ti Earlstone o Cruden Bay aside the brickworks here as foremen. It hid three pair an an orra beast on her. I bade in the chammer wi the rest o the billies – the baillie wis mairried, he bade in the cotter hoose. We threesh aa the corn wi a thrashin mull – stem, of coorse, an as I hid gye yokie feet, I only bade a sax month term.

I then fe-et hame ti Newton o Sack, Langside, as foremen – a twa pair place. I hid ti manage, aye, look efter the wark side o things at the same time. Ye see it wis an ootferm o Alexanders o Springhill – the mannie I wis fe-et wi afore I jined up. There wis jist the baillie, the second horseman an masel on her, a toon o a hunner an siventy acre. We hid a dashed gweed hoosekeeper ti keep the hoose state o affairs goin fors.

Efter sax month I thocht I wid ging some idder wye, bit the mannie cam doon an socht ma ti tak on as manager at Upper Sack. So I took it on, man, the siller wis nae bad. Noo I bade er a hale eer.

I hid been getting ristless since I hid been awa in the War an I then hid a notion ti ging ti America ti see ma bridder. This wis the auldest een – he hid been oot er afore 1910 ti Canada. In fact he hid tried puckles o jobs like minin an sheep herdin an he even got sna blin fin up on the Yukon. Noo he hid got settled doon an ined a grocers shop in a sma village caad Billings in Montana.

Man he wis richt shooted ti see ma an helpit get ma a jobbie there on a road makkin squad. Here I caad a three pair horse team – they war jist shults – ruggin a scraper implement used ti help mak a boddom for new roads. Bit the wark cam tull a feenish fin the frost an snaas o Winter begood an at wis ma oot o wark. Noo at wis ma near deen nine month an the pay wisna bad either an I thocht I wid like ti see hame again.

So I traivelled the wye back an d’ye ken iss min, efter I reached hame I only hid ten poun left – weel, the thing wis if I’d bidden on withoot a job, I mith hae spent aathing afore I got anidder een. I fe-et back wi the same mannie Alexander for £50 an wis fine shooted wi at for a sax month.

Weel, efetr at, fees sterted ti gang doon hill as fermin gid doon hill in the twinties an thirties bit then it pickit up again fin the Second War started. Mind ye there wis a lot o weemin employed en tee. I likit Setterday dances better than Friday eens wi the best eens hereaboots at Boddom. Files I gid ti Hatton an files Cruden Bay. It wis aa at richt kine o dancin wi plenty o Eichtsome reels an lancers an aat. Ye jist yokit yer bike an we war aa er early on, an the bikes aa lined up roon the hallie twa three deep.
There wis aye a gweed Meal an Ale in the barn laft up at Adie here efter the tail o hairst wi plenty ti ate an plenty o music an dancin ti follow. I mind fin we wis at Hill o Dudwick, I wis aye at the scweel, ma fadder an midder held a gran meal an ale an dance in the barn. The fiddlers got perched up on the feedin platform o the mull ti play ti the dancin. It wis weel attenned wi aa the fermers, ferm chiels an skiffy deems fae roon aboot. It wis a strange thing min, bit maist o the fermers up at wye war aa bachelors.

Ma midder wis a gran singer an gid a gweed sang or twa an idder folk did ane. The meal wis steeped in fusky an porter ale an hid a gye kick aboot it. The duncin lestit richt inti mornin – aye, gye wild tee on a cement fleer.

Fae Alexander’s place I took the road again ti the feein market at Ellon far I met in wi the fermer o Mains o Boddom – MacArrows – an we strack an agreement an I got ma arles again. Ach, I aye likit a cheenge. Man there wis some gye fechts at the feein market fin we hid a dram. Ye see some couldna tak the drink an some blew aboot fit great men they war at scythin or dreelin an that an fu better they war than onybody else at sic like. Bit they were freens eneuch efter the fecht wis by, ye ken. Weel, we war aa isolated for sax month o the eer withoot siller an we gid fair wild fin we wis latten louse we a pucklie.

I drave a pair o horse at MacArrows, an on the Fridays I helpit as second man on his cairriers larry ti Aiberdeen an back. Jist caad in stuff an caad oot ti customers goods o aa kines the’d ordered oot o the toon. Then I began ti be noat ti help oot wi drivin sheep an nowt ti an fae marts like Ellon, Maud an Aiberdeen. Then the mannie gid ma a larry o ma ain ti caa beasts, as the idder een wis getting ower muckle ti dee. The roads war affa roch at at time, jist wi road metal only, ye didna see tar. I eence bikit aa the wye ti Aiberdeen an back fin I wis at Sack o Langside – ye thocht nithin aboot it.

The sna blockit the roads ilkey winter for wicks an wicks sax fit deep an at fair stoppit the traffic. There wis nithin for reddin them wi at at time. Man the posties hid a hell o a job traivellin on tap o the sna delinerin mail.

I met ma wife at a ball at Boddom. Her fadder wis the blacksmith up at Chapelhill there. My folk war bidin up at Tillymaud still.

Fin I wis at a thrashin mull – a stem mull we caad em – there wis aye a lot o folk noat, fit wi the louse strae ti contain. An if it’s a winny day, then look oot. The elevators helpit a wee bit, bit nae neen on tap o the soo. Na, Na, the win files blew it ti kinddom come. Ae mull I wis at, I wis puttin on ti cairry corn fae the corn yard up a laft stair wi the hunnerweight an a half railway bags, I gid ower ma cweet an de ye ken iss min, it wis nivver the same again. That wis fin I wis siventeen afore the War.

I took a job masel in the ine at the brickworks – jist howkin oot clay an fin a digger took ower I gid on for feedin the clay mull. The clay en cam oot a ready prepared ti be made inti bricks.

Then I took a job as a chauffeur/gairdener in Cruden Bay here. Then I got a job as a gravedigger for the last 10 eer – man I likit it fine. Sine, fin I retired Donald Stewart soucht ma ti look efter his stirks on Slains Lodge – that wis aa in girse an I lookit ower his beasties ivery day for twinty eer.
I’ll tell ye aboot the time I wis wounded. A little bittie shrapnel the size o yer thoomb jist strack ma on the side o the heed. At the dressin station the doctor took it oot an talt ma that I wis gye lucky – anidder half inch farrer doon an that wis me caput – throue the jugular vein. I landed up in a hospital farrer doon an then sent doon to Calais an loaded on ti a hospital ship. Noo I wis spikkin tull a sailor it hid been hurtit – in fact he lanned up in a bed nae far fae mine. He telt ma that wis the result o bein torpedoed the nicht afore – his ship wis sunk.

Weel, I’ll nivver forget iss; the date wis April 10th. 1917 an oor boat sailed early at mornin, an at ten meenits past eicht a big explosion took place an beds an boords started fleein aawye. Noo the boat started ti sink an I managed wi a tyav ti get on ma feet – weel ye hid tull, an the soon o folk shoutin for help an idder din wis something infernal. I loused the feet o a lad neist ti ma – his feet war tied ti his bed, bit I couldna help him ony, I wis only fit ti shift masel. I did wi a tyav, get up onti the deck far the sailors war tryin ti muster aabody. I finally got inti a lifeboat an we war meeved aff. It wisna afore time – the ship jist raise inti the air an gid a shudder an then gid stracht doon an disappeared aneth the waves.

Weel I dinna think there wis time ti save mony o the wounded – I nivver saa mony onywye. A lad MacGillvery fae Peterheed wis on the same boat, weel, he wis lost – oh, na, they hidna a chunce.

I’ve led nae a bad life for aa that.



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