Life on a Birse Fairm
by: Farquharson, Helen
I wis born in 1946. I went tae Birse school first in primary, and then I went tae Abyne school efter that. Birse school hid only 12 pupils; there wis 3 in my class, and 12 in the hale school, and jist one teacher. The eens that went tae the school wi me war aa born and brought up in Birse...they were maistly aff the fairms aroon. Efter primary 7 we biked tae Abyne school. Afore we gid tae school we'd porridge every mornin an a slice o toast an tea if ye winted it.
My dad's fairm wis aboot a mile fae the school. We'd coos, an a horse, an dogs an cats, an tractors. We'd a stable at that time. Ronald wis the horse's name. Bit I dinna mind much aboot the horse, I wis only aboot five fin the horse gid awa; he wid hae deen the plooin at ae time.
Father keepit bees. He selt honey roon aboot ye ken, an he made honey ale. It wis lethal stuff! Aabody seemed tae like it bit me. The bees hid hives at the bottom o the gairden, and he wisna neen scared o them, an we warna either. We wis ay brocht up wi them, ye see.
We'd quite a lot o pigs. Father killt a pig an made wir ain bacon. He salted it an hung it oot in the barn. We'd jist two milk coos. There wis ay plenty heifers, tho. Fin I wis aulder I milkit the coos bi haun...we aa took a shottie at it.
Butter wis made every week. Mother churned every week, and keepit the milk cool in the milk hoose. We niver hid bought butter. And curds, we hid, anna, that aa come fae the coo. We'd curds for a puddin on Sunday.We'd ay plenty hens; some war ootside an some war in, free range an deep litter. And we ay keepit collie dogs, Glen, an Ben, Flossie an Scampy an Spotty ower the years....good enough dogs wi cattle they war, bit mair jist as pets. They war fed on fit ye hid yersel. There wisna ony special food fur dogs....brose, sometimes, they ett, an saps made wi milk an auld bread.
Every Sunday we'd hen's broth fur wir denner, an a hame made apple pie...naething come ooto a tin or a packet, aathing wis hame made. We didna hae a lot o beef, bit rabbits and things like that we ate. We definitely lived aff the land.
The peat cut wis half a mile awa up on the hill. Maistly ma father an brithers an ither men frae Birse went up thegither. They'd be awa the hale day. They took their denner wi them an warna back until dark. They stacked up the peats on the hill an left them there tae dry. Later they took them back doon for the winter comin on, tae pit in the peat shed for burnin fuel.
Father wis born at Deerhillock, half a mile along the road frae Drumneachie far I wis born. Ma granfaither wis born in the Bog. At that time there wisna mony incomers here at aa. My husband comes fae Tarland and aa his folk come fae Tarland. He gid tae Tarland school. Of course, Tarland an Abyne young folk aa gid tae the same daunces .
We war ay busy at tattie pickin time....a hundred schoolkids wid be tattie pickin in ae day. That wid hiv gid on fur a wikk or a fortnight, dependin on the weather. Nae sae much o the crop wis liftit in the tattie holidays...bit at that time ye got aff the school for tattie pickin if the fairmers winted ye. A tattie picker's pye wid hae bin 12/6d a day , aboot 75p in new money. Ye warna allowed tae pick until ye wir 13 years auld, unless ye wir faimly.
Lang back, father wid hae jist heen corn, oats ye ken, bit later he grew tatties an barley. He hid grazin at Lochnagar distillery, an the cattle were there aa summer, bit they ay come hame tae ging inside the byre aa winter. At ae time he keepit sheep up by Lochnagar tee.
Hotch potch wis made wi the new veggies ooto the gairden, and sometimes pea soup, tattie soup, or broth wis made. We grew aa wir ain veggies in the gairden or the parks.
Fin I wis younger, they war still biggin rucks. I often used tae drive the tractor and cairt fin I wis wee, an ma brithers loaded it up wi the sheafs. They'd hae teen the stooks ye see an biggit them intae rucks. We ay hid a thrashin mill, bit I canna mind fan exactly that wis. Ma mither fed aa the folk that come in aboot tae help at the thrashin mill...three sittins fur denner, at three tables. And she'd tae makk their flies at mornin and efterneen.
There wid hae bin 30 in my class at Abyne High School. They're scattered aboot aawye noo. Abyne wad be full o incomers the day, and the school in Birse closed doon lang ago.