Donald Ferguson’s work as a railway porter

Donald’s first job was as a junior porter on the railway. His Father had worked on the railways many years earlier.

“I was a railway-daft laddie and wanted to work on the railway. Coming up to the time of the old Higher Exams at Kirkcaldy High School I knew I wasn’t going to take them. I decided I would get a job myself. I walked to the Railway District Office and was offered a job as a junior porter (lad porter) at Aberdour Railway Station. I had to work a full year to qualify for a holiday. I got tips from richer clients -6d. or 1 shilling (1 /-). Could get 2-3 tips everyday. Sometimes as much as 10 /- At the time of the Glasgow Fair I had a week off. People went to the coastal resorts on trains or railway streamers from Broomielaw steamer pier.  

I was very busy as a porter. The people who wanted help saw your porter’s hat. There were adult porters too and they had a uniform. My mother didn’t work. On the 1st September they said “Thank you we don’t need your services anymore so I went back to school.

A 1938 Empire Exhibition Season Ticket. Glasgow

A 1938 Empire Exhibition Season Ticket. Glasgow

That was the year of the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow 1938. Went to school just to fill in. The District Office sent for me in April of 1939 via a note to come and see them. Left school again and went back to work this time as a number taker at Inverkeithling station. Every freight wagon has a number on it and a freight label. Their destination was Inverkeithling. Every morning I went around th marshaling yard and got all the wagon numbers and information on the wagon label.(which showed a despatch point and the destination i.e. Donnybristle). Donnybristle was the Royal Navy Aircraft Repair Yard.. The wagons from the dockyard went by a branch line. Donnybristle was off the main line so it was taken up to Donnybristle Yard and the Navy had a small yard. Two miles from the marshalling yard. The Signal box was at Donnybristle. They set the points so the train could back into the yards.

RASC Badge

I worked on the railway all my working life. Conscripted in 1940. I wanted the tank corps but went to Royal Army Service Corps known as Ally Sloper’s Calvary. After a month in the RASC I was compulsorily transferred to the Army as a sapper for the Royal Corp of Engineers, training with the engineers at a place near Chester. This wasn’t my first visit to England as my mother was English and I had visited my grandmother in England (Stafford) by train.

After the war I met members of parliament such as the local MP for Dundee in 1950s. Travelled on many railways over the years.”

 Old Elgin Railway Station © Copyright Ann Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Old Elgin Railway Station

Donald returned to work for the railways after the war as a Clerk again at Inverkeithling. He then moved onto Assistant Controller at the Burnt Island Control Office taking free railway classes in Signals. He then qualified as a signalman. He used this skill when he was a Relief Station Master at the Burnt Island District Office covering for holidays, sickness and vacancies for an area from Inverbervey (south of Aberdeen) to Forth Road Bridge. When he went to cover a place he had to find lodgings in the area which he paid for and then claimed the expenses back. He could be away from home for a maximum of a week. Once he had a job at Kinloss junction as Relief Station Master which covered the whole summer. He only got home on days off. He became Area Manager at Ayrshire and ended his working life in Elgin as Area Manager, based in the old station building opposite the Laichmoray Hotel (an old station hotel). As a retired employee he continues to get a set of vouchers to travel on the railways at home and abroad.

Memory contributed by Donald Ferguson of Elgin

Additional information
Clydewater Heritage website with more information about Broomielaw Pier.

Lovely set of photographs of Broomielaw Pier

Scottish Empire Exhibition films about the  Empire Exhibition 1938

Origins of the Ally Sloper’s Cavalry during World War 1.

MPs for Dundee during the 1950s was John Strachey and Thomas Cook


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