James left Banff Academy in 1940 at the age of 15 and the following day went to work on a local farm belonging to Mr Chalmers. He got free accommodation and meals with his job. He started on a six month contract with Sundays as a day off and three days holiday.
He had breakfast and then fed the horses by 7 o’clock. He was then given his work for the day. This could be ploughing the fields, harrowing and digging up the potatoes, which are then put into crates.
” If the fields are too wet then they had to wait until it was dry but there was always work to do around the farm. Each farmer worked their own way. My sister, Alexia worked at the same farm with me. She was a skivvy (servant). My brother, Alan was also a farm labourer. We were all born in a Glasgow tenement but our own parents both died when we were young.
Life in the area
There were very few cars. The road had tar on it but there were lots of holes in it and it was very rough. There were many people still using the horse and cart.
Eventually the horses were replaced with tractors and the horses were sent to Belgium. I heard a rumour they were sold for horse meat but I don’t know if that is true.
My brother went into the army in 1939. I also went into the army and did an exchange programme with Canada. Two soldiers came from Britain and two came from Canada. I went to Manitoba. After the war I went back to farm work and worked for Baxters as a chargehand then as a security man at another company before retiring in Buckie.”
Memory contributed by James Ross, Buckie
Watch a 1955 film of horse ploughing
The film shows everyday life and work of a Scottish ploughman, shot at Smeaton Farm, Dalkeith.
It was made in 1955 and lasts 11 minutes.