Rabbit Catching (WW2) and Tattie Picking by Hettie Milne neé Coutts

Hettie’s memories of life at Burghead School during WW2 >>>>>

Burghead 48 King Street Hettie MilneHettie was born in Burghead, Moray at 48 King Street in 1932 and she is therefore proud to be known as a “brocher”. Her mother came from Glenlivet and her Father, James “Jimmy” from Aberdeenshire. His family lived on a small holding in Aberdeenshire. He was the eldest son born in 1907 and he had to leave school at the age of 14 to work on the family farm. There were no tractors and part of Jimmy’s job was to drove cattle. Around 1920 they decided to move to Cullerne Farm, a new bigger farm located between Kinloss and Findhorn. So it was that one day his mother, younger brothers, sisters, 2 cows, a few sheep, chickens, Granny Jeannie Coutts on the cart and all their worldly goods set off. They were led by Jimmy as they started on their journey via Rhynie over the Cabrach, down Rothes Glen and onto Findhorn.

Burghead 69a Dunbar Street Hettie Milne

69 Dunbar Street

By the time that Hettie was born in 1932 her father had left Cullerne farm (at the age of 21) and moved to the nearby fishing settlement of Burghead.  One of her earliest memories is of a small shop in Findhorn. They lived at the top of town at 69a Dunbar Street. Prior to this they lived in 48 King Street. Her first job was “tattie” picking. During September/October the schools closed for what was known as the Tattie holidays (they still do). This break coincided with the readiness of the potato harvest. Hettie along with other local children, (usually aged 12 and over)  waited by the school at Burghead for a tractor and bogie to come and pick them up to start work at 7.30 a.m. each day. They started work at 8 a.m.  with short breaks until 5 at night. The tatties were collected in galvanized buckets and then poured into a wire basket. A young lad held the reins of the horse as older men tipped the basket contents into the cart. Each of the children had brought their own “piece” (snack) or lunch with them. This could be two slices of bread with corned beef or dry sandwiches with margarine and jam.   Occasionally they hunted the hedgerows for brambles sometimes taking them home at the end of the day. Some farms had apple orchards they could pick apples from.  They took or were given cold drinks. Flasks were too expensive and too easily broken.The money made from tattie picking was used to buy them a new winter coat and shoes. Any left over could be used for a bar of chocolate.

When Hettie left school she went to work for the Forestry Commission at Newton Nurseries from 1946-1951 from the age of 14 to 19 years. Her job involved replanting forests in Culbin Sands, Clashindarroch and Roseisle. She was also involved in reseeding young trees. At Heldon Hill Hettie cleared the lower branches from the trees so they could be used for telegraph poles.

Wester Alves farm  © Copyright Steven Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Wester Alves farm © Copyright Steven Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In 1951 she went to work for Miss Grant, a lady farmer at Wester Alves farm. Cattlemen brought the milk into the dairy and left it to stand. The butter and cream comes to the top. It is then put into a milk churn and the handles are turned until a flopping sound is created when the butter has formed. The butter is weighed out into the right size. Miss Grant took the butter into town (Elgin) to give to her friends. Eventually Miss Grant was taken ill. Her brother-in-law Sir Alexander Murray offered her job in London. as did his daughter, Mrs Robinson in Edinburgh. Hettie decided to say “No” to both and to go back to her Forestry Commission work.

Rabbits_on_ a_fence_source: Hettie Milne

Typical rabbit catch for Jimmy Coutts, Rabbit Catcher, Burghead. Photo Source: Hettie Milne neé Coutts

Rabbit catching
Hettie’s father, Jimmy Milne was a Rabbit catcher. This was a reserved occupation during WW2 as due to shortages of meat and therefore rationing rabbit had become one of the main replacements for the UK population. The shortages were due to the torpedoing of merchant shipping by U-boats. This led to a national shortage of a variety of foodstuffs including corn, wheat, sugar and meat. Jimmy MilneWild rabbits were prolific during this period and farmers were more than happy for Hettie’s Father to catch rabbits on their land. He paid the farmers for using their land. Country folk have always eaten rabbit, hare, pheasant and duck. Each evening he set his traps along the runs, which splayed out naturally from the rabbits’ warrens. The rabbits left a groove where their runs were. Sometimes Hettie would help her Father set the traps using a paraffin lamp to light their way. Apart from using snares he also held a 2.2 gun licence. Jimmy also kept ferrets to flush out the rabbits when the ground was too hard to set snares. He could tell when the rabbits were in their warrens as there was fresh sand outside their holes. Hettie would help her father set the traps by twising the wire and going out to collect the rabbits. He came home with a rattling car and a basket of traps to repair. Her Mother, Christina also helped by winding up a snare wire with a “thraw” hook. James put his rabbits into crates and then sent his rabbits via train down to butchers’ shops in England.

Hettie’s Mother, Christina worked at Gordonstoun when her children were older. It was hard work due to the nature of the stone floors. She also cleaned for a teacher’s wife who had a house on the bus route.

The following morning at about half past four he set off to collect the rabbits from his snares before the local wildlife had a chance to help themselves first.

In the summertime the family went to Glenlivet where her Mother was from. Christina and James had married at Achbreck Church, Glenlivet on 24 December 1931. To get there they went on the bus to Elgin, then train to Dufftown, bus to Tomintoul and then got off at Tomnavoulin. There were no street signs or road signs to take them there. You just had to know the way. The signage had been removed for the duration of WW2 in case of german invasion. Hettie’s Father continued to catch rabbits throughout their Glenlivet trips, taking his crates of rabbits to Dufftown and Glenlivet stations for transport south. In addition to sending his catch south he also supplied local butchers as well. There were poachers operating in the area as well though they had to try to sell their catch door to door.

Additional information

Childhood memories of Burghead by Hettie Milne nee Coutts by Hettie Milne

Hettie’s brother was Country singer Frankie Coutts. He had formed a duo with Willie Sutherland in the 1960s and 70s. He was well-known in Moray.

Book Binder Assistant in Aberdeen by Jane MacDonald

Jane started work in 1948 as a book binder’s assistant for a Printers between Union Street and St. Nicholas Street in Aberdeen. She was 17 years old. She fed the cutting machine, which cut the paper for the books. There were three different paper sizes for the books. She didn’t see the printing side of the operation. Jane worked from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m alongside another girl on the same shift. One person fed the paper into the cutting machine and the other person took out the paper and put the cut paper into boxes. Even though they did not wear protective gloves she doesn’t remember getting paper cuts. There was a break in the morning in a small kitchen. Jane worked there for just over a year. In 1949 there was a paper shortage so the job stopped as the printing company had to lose staff when the production stopped and the paper supply halted. Jane lost her job along with another girl who had started at the same time following the “last in first out ” principle.

Her next job was at the Woolworths at Union Street in Aberdeen as a sales assistant. Rationing was still in place from the Second World War. Customers had to present coupons and were only allowed so many sweets each. Each coupon was cut out of the ration book. The counter had a variety of sweets including Liquorice Allsorts, caramels, fruit gums, fruit pastilles, pontefract cakes (liquorice) and pan drops (form of white mint imperial). Hard candy was presented in long trays to be broken into pieces with a hammer. 

Generally they could not get chocolate if they did get the occasional boxes of chocolates there were long lines of people queuing for them. Adults bought most of the sweets as the Mother in the family often had control of the sweet coupons. They were in a family ration book and if it was lost it would not be replaced so children would not usually be entrusted with it.

Jane then moved upstairs to the Grocery counter. Jane enjoyed working at Woolworths. Mainly women worked there with the exceptions of the Manager and the Under Manager (Mr France). The Grocery sold dry goods such as tea, cocoa, rice, flour, oats, soup mix etc…. but no coffee. Tea was sold in packages as was the cocoa. There was very little fruit to sell. Occasionally loose biscuits would arrive and then there would be a long queue for that.

Memory contributed by Jane MacDonald from Keith

Additional Information

A blog by a graphic design student shows pictures of the Woolworths building along with information on the closure of the Woolworths shops.

The High Street Blog showing Woolworths on Union Street, Aberdeen There is also a page with photographs of the Woolworths shop then and now.

RCAHMS add new resource links on WW1 in Scotland

RCAHMS WW1 resourcesRoyal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) website has updated its database on buildings and structures established as part of the nations’ defence in World War One as the result of an extensive audit. The records feature modern and historic photographs along with extensive new information on hospitals, prisoner of war camps, air stations, anti-aircraft defence, firing ranges, barracks, naval yards etc…

Home front heritage revealed in new study of WWI Scotland
Browse hundreds of records of sites and structures established for the defence of Scotland during the First World War.

Moray-specific information is revealed in this RCAHMS Built Heritage Report
pg 62 Moray’s drill halls, pg 47 Table 22 Auxilliary hospitals and p67 Firing ranges.

Moray’s War- World War One Commemorations Meeting

Moray will be creating a page on a National website related to WW1. Currently there is an Edinburgh’s War page and the Moray’s War will follow a similar format. Moray's war meeting January 28 2014

Useful links pages on this website for people and schools involved in WW1 research related to the anniversary.

Moray    Useful links for WW1
Scotland  Useful links for WW1 and WW2
General Useful links for WW1 and WW2

Working as a table maid at Leuchars house by Sheila McGregor

Leuchars House Attibution Anne Burgess This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.Sheila attended Elgin Technical College where she learnt cookery, sewing, knitting and housework. She left at the age of 16 and went to work at Leuchers House situated in a farming area near Elgin. Her employer was Colonel Black who by then was in his 90s and childless. Her room was in the attic. In addition to Sheila there was a housekeeper and a gardener. Each day the housekeeper, Nurse Grant woke her up. Nurse Grant had previously looked after the Colonel’s late wife and stayed on.

Sheila woke the Colonel at 7.30 a.m. setting his breakfast table in the dining room and then moving on to clean his shoes. She was then able to have her own breakfast in the kitchen with the housekeeper. Breakfast always consisted of porridge, toast, home-made butter, jam and marmalade.

The Colonel dressed himself and then went to work every day, even though he was advanced in years, until well into his 80s. He worked for the partnership of Allan, Black and McCaskie in Elgin as a solicitor. While he was out Sheila cleaned the house and helped to prepare lunch. He returned for lunch driving himself home in his Rover car. In the afternoon both she and the Housekeeper were free and sometimes they would cycle to Lochhills, where Nurse Grant owned a cottage. Sheila’s parents lived in Birnie but it was too far to go for just an afternoon. Each Friday and every 2nd Saturday she had a day off. On those days she would cycle from Leuchars House to Birnie to see her parents. She did not take her washing as she was able to do that at Leuchars House.

In the evening Sheila and the House keeper sat in the kitchen and knitted or sewed. The Gardener went home. He did not live in as he had lived a cottage with his family. The cottage was on and belonged to the estate.

On occasion the colonel would entertain neighbours with a dinner party. Regular guests included the Laird of Pitgaveny and Captain Iain and Lady Margaret Tennant from Innes House.

Additional Information

More information about Lieutenant Colonel William Rose Black can be found on Libindx database. Select People search on the left and then click on the blue full information icon on the right (see screenshot below).
Link to the Libindx database which has information about Colonel Black

Leuchars House is a British Listed Building. There is a lot of information about the hosue including a map of its location and photographs of the house. Libindx also has information about Leuchars House under a Place Search including details of a fire which destroyed part of the house in 1948 and the addition of a garage by Colonel Rose Black in 1953 around when Sheila worked there.

An 1870-1 map of the area showing where Leuchars House is. It is in the left third of the map about halfway up.

Plan of Loch spynie and adjacent grounds on the Scotland Places' websiteScotland’s Places website has a wonderful map of the area called a Plan of Loch Spynie and adjacent grounds. It shows the Mill of Leuchars around where the main house is now. The mill run is shown running south from the Loch of Coates and over the Lands of Leuchars. There is also an old channel shown linking the River Lossie to the Loch of Coates which ran across the Leuchars land. The map was drawn up for the Court of Sessions in 1783 as part a dispute between Sir William Gordon of Gordonstoun and the Branders of Kinneddar (Alex Brander) and Pitgaveny Estate (John Brander).

Working in West End Guest House in Aberdeen by Helen Fitch

Helen’s parents owned a guest house in Aberdeen called West End Guest House on St. Swithins Street. Helen went to work for parents outside school hours, when she was 13 in 1960. She was allowed to keep the money she earned. When she was 15 she saw an advert in the Press and Journal newspaper advertising work at Leighton Hall in Montgomeryshire. At that time a Canadian Newspaper magnet owned the house. She went to work there with a friend for the holidays and they earned £5 a week. The following year in 1963 she went to work as a nanny and mother’s help in Dunkeld. It was very hard and involved washing, ironing and cooking. In 1964 she took her Highers. In the summer she worked as a porter at Oban Hotel. In September she started at Edinburgh University to study law. She soon decided it was not for her and left to become an uncertified primary school teacher in Fauldhouse, a very deprived area of Lark hall. She was given a class of 35 five year olds with no prior training.

Her next adventure was getting married and travelling to Northern Malawi with her husband who had been appointed the Regional Forest Officer.

Additional Information
Leighton House is a listed building in Wales. There are a number of images of the estate and other details around it on the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Images of Leighton Hall on RCAHMW.

History of the Leighton Village centred around the Leighton Estate.

Blackhillock farm work near Deskford by Annabel Ure

Annable went to work for the family business of farming at ther father’s farm of Blackhillock. She left school at the age of 14 in 1943 and went to work full-time though she had been helping out for years before this when not at school. Her Father and brothers were still at home as farming was a reserved occupation during WW2. The An example of a Clydesdale Horse. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.farm grew oats,barley, carrots, turnips, leeks and tatties but not wheat as the soil was too wet. Annabel learnt to drive a tractor before learning to drive a car. The farm used Clydesdale horses for ploughing- Charlie the horse and Pirie the Mare. At lunchtime soups would be made for workmen e.g. broth, tattie and pea.The farm made their own cheese in a cheese press, which was kept outside. It was a form of Crowdie. It took a week to ten days to make the cheese from cows’ milk rennet. It was a hard life working from daylight to dark.

Her sister was nine years older than her. She went on to Buckie High School then on to a Nursing career at St. Martin Hospital, Glasgow as a midwife. Her twin brothers worked in Engineering (Ian) and on the farm then joinery (Alec). They went out to work and came home to the farm at night.

Annabel worked on the farm until her father gave it up. They had to move to an empty house nr. Lhanbryde called Greenside, Orton Road, Rothes. Her Father needed to rest and he took a powder three times a day to help him.

Apprentice Mechanic at Burgess of Keith by Peter MacLeman

Peter’s family background was in farming but he wanted to train as a mechanic. He went to Inverness Technical College at the age of 16 in 1961 to train for a City and Guild course in Mechanics. When completed the qualification he went back to Keith to work for the garage, Burgess of Keith. The work involved dealing with farm machinery, tractors, vans and pickups. Generally he worked Monday to Friday but he could be called out at the weekend. The pay was £7 a week. He really enjoyed the work. next he worked for Barclays in Portsoy working with haulage vehicles and livestock carriers. Later on was a Glenfiddich Distillery as a fireman stoking fires under the stills. The work was very warm as you would imagine and very hard.

The shifts were as follows:–
Day shift     7.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.
Back shift   3.00 p.m.- 11 p.m.
Night shift 11 p.m. – 7.00 a.m.

The days would work as follows:-
7 days Day shift  then 3 days off
7 day Back shift then 3 days off
7 day Night shift and then 3 days off

The weekend had 12 hour shifts during the holidays. When the mechanic was suddenly taken ill Peter stood in for him and ended up staying in the new position for the next 14 years (the original mechanic retired). Later Peter went to work on the transport vehicles including HGVs. He took his licence to drive them.

While working at the distilleries in those days there were daily dramming sessions, usually three – morning, lunchtime and afternoon when the employees were served with a dram of clearic whisky. Clearic is the pure spirit whisky straight out of the still before being sent to storage barrels to mature.

Memory contributed by Peter MacLeman

Easter Bogs farmworker by Mary McIntosh

Easter Bogs © Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Easter Bogs © Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Mary worked on Easter Bogs farm near Cairnfield, Banffshire. She started work at the age of 13 in 1939. She was put there by her family as a place to work. She had to light the fire and make porridge. There were four double beds to change with flannelette sheets.

She left Easter Bogs farm in 1941 at the age of 15 and moved to work at Tanachie Farm nr. Portgordon. She helped the daughters. She does not remember any Prisoners of War working on the farm. Mary’s next job during the latter part of the war, was working for local firm, Baxters. The older Mr Baxter chose a tartan for the tins. Sometimes the female workers put messages in the jam hoping to reach the troops by putting their name and address on the jam pot cover. They placed the jam jar on a wooden block with a groove on it to stop the glass bottle moving. Items such as sliced beetroot were filled with the “bonny” bits around the edge of the jar and then the rest of the jar was filled up. They were usually not allowed to sing while they worked. Mary remembers being told “That is the second time I told you to stop singing”. Gordon Baxter, a member of the army at the time, would sometimes come to the factory floor to sit next to them. “He was a lovely sweetheart”.  Two boys worked in a tin shed skinning rabbits for the stews and soups.


Woolworths in Elgin © Copyright Iain Macaulay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Mary also worked in Forestry for the Timber Corps. Italian POWs wore a patch on their back to identify them. She was also an Assistant Window dresser at Woolworths. It was very busy. On the weekend she worked at a Tea Bar. Maryhill House was a barracks and Hough House (=Mansion House) was for the RAF.

Towards the end of the war Mary was posted to Camberley where Princess Elizabeth was also posted. She learnt to drive there. Mary remembers the lovely smile she received once from the Princess when Mary went inside to collect her wages.

Memory contributed by Mary McIntosh from Elgin

Additional information

Princess Elizabeth was posted to Camberley during WW2 where she learnt a variety of skills including vehicle repair.  The person in charge of her training was Maud Maclennan. She wrote about her experience of doing this in 1952.