Poultry boy by William Brown

William started his first job in 1946 at a place his father had chosen. It was called Ross of Burnhead Accredited Hatcheries. William got a special excemption to leave school. He was earning 7 /- 6d. a week. There were thousands of birds in very large cages. 30-40,000 birds running around in sawdust.

Tattie Picking
The sawdust was very good used on the nearby tattie fields. The same farmer had acres of tatties and William was also employed picking them. He got 1/- 6 d. for this work. Farmers could apply for an exemption from the schools for the children they wanted for the picking time. The work lasted three to four weeks and was more or less the same time every year. Most of the children worked in the fields from 7.30 a.m. 1/2 hr for dinner and then finish 4-5 p.m. Each child took a pail to put them in.

Hand-me-downs and other memories
He remembers his mother using an old blanket for a skirt. Very few shops sold clothing. Eventually hand-me-downs were cut up for rugs for the floor. Christmas was an apple, an orange and a penny. Collected holly locally (at 4 a.m. in the morning!) and made holly wreaths to sell.

Memory contributed by William Brown from Fochabers

Additional Information

potato advert from Scottish Screen OnlineScottish Screen Online 1951 advert to children to encourage them to take part in the potato harvest.


Seaman’s work by Ian Beaton Jack

Lighthouse tender SS Pharos BBC websiteIan had always wanted to go to sea and he eventually got his wish at the age of 15 on the Cromarty/Invergordon ferry in 1948. His first wage was £1.00 a week.

His next job was on 1949 “SS Pharos” Lighthouse tender (two years). There is a painting of the ship on a BBC website. Click on the picture on the left.

He then changed ship again a number of times after that.

Deep Sea Merchant Service
Herring Fishing (6 yrs)
RNLI Mechanic out of Aberdeen (24 yrs)
Logistics Manager Oil Supply Company
and finally on retirement worked at Herd and Mackenzie’s shipyard and was Deputy Launching Authority RNLI in Buckie.

Memory contributed by Ian Beaton Smith from Buckie

Additional Information

Buckie and District Fishing Heritage CentreIan is a Committee Member of Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre. He is a Father of four children, grandfather of seven and great-grandfather of two.
Find more information on the Cromarty /Invergordon ferry from Invergordon archive site. Link to the Invergordon ArchiveSearch for ferry and there are lots of pages about it on the site.

Shorthand Typing in Zambia by Sheila

Sheila was born in Bulawayo in Zambia. She started work in 1958 at the age of 18 following her sister into the world of shorthand typing. Her grandfather was a pre-pioneer moving to South Africa  from Germany in 1888. Her Father was a diesel mechanic and worked at copper machines in Zambia then he came back to Bulawayo. Her husband went out as a policeman then worked in immigration and then the United Tour in Zimbabwe. Moved with him to Kariba and went to Victoria Falls working in tourism. Sheila worked in the office with two secondary assistants. Tourists came from all over the world. There was a fleet of 30 cars and taxis. Her job involved sorting out the wages, general office, banking and drawing up the ledgers. There were a wide variety of jobs to do.

During the 1990s worked at a fishing camp called DeKa Drum. Her brothers own it. The origin of the name is from when the drums were beaten to warn of the arrival of the slave traders down the Zambezi River. It was an area famous for its Tiger fish and Bream. The camp is at the confluence of the Deka and Zambezi River. It had a bar, restaurant and a few chalets. It was primarily a sports fishery.

Operation Raleigh used it as a base to raft themselves down the Kariba. Their project was to build a school. Part of the trip was staying out at Decca. Her husband Jock put on a fish BBQ as part of the tour. The group came once a year if they were in Matabeleland. 

The currency situation got a little crazy between 200-2004 and people were walking around with suitcases of the local currency. Now they use Rand or US Dollars.

Memory contributed by Sheila Cruickshank from Lossiemouth

Additional Information

Operation Raleigh– current site

A journal report from the Deka Drum Fishing Camp with pictures

Woolworths Jewelry Counter in Yeovil by Doreen Walker

From 1944 Doreen worked for two years in a jewelry shop which employed invalid men from the First and Second world wars and also men who had been affected by polio earlier in life. They soldered threepence (thre’pence) onto rings for the Americans. She stayed there until 1945. At the age of 17 she got a job working after invalid people. Doreen also worked for Woolworths at the gas lighting counter where she sold gas mantles, candles and bulbs. The main store seemed to sell everything. She married her husband, Bill, who worked as the manager of a cycle shop. Their cottage (Trill Cottage, Thornford Road, Dorset) had no mains water, no electricity and the water came from a well 180 yds. away.

Memory contributed by Doreen Walker from Lossiemouth

Working as a shop assistant in Aberlour by Margaret Meldrum

Peter Taylor on his bike. Photograph from a collection brought by a visitor to the reunion event

Peter Taylor

Margaret started work at Peter Taylor’s grocery shop because her sister already worked there. She was 15 years old and it was 1966. She worked on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. and on Sundays a half day. She got £1 for Saturdays and 10/- for the half day.

Her job included stocking the shelves.  Slicing ham on a machine and using a cheese wire to cut the cheese. The cheese was wrapped in greaseproof paper. People put in orders and then a message boy took the completed order out on his bike. This meant the shop ran a credit system and people were trusted to come in promptly to settle their bills.  Some people were better than others at doing this. The Walkers shop was in the same place it is now and it sold bread and cakes.

Aberlour Orphanage supplied by a visitor to the reunion eventHer Mother worked at the Margaret Rose Nursery which was part of the Orphanage. There were some very young children including babies  and toddlers in the nursery.

The Orphanage had its own school. Only the o’level children came to the Aberlour High School.

Each Saturday night they got a bag of sweeties from Mrs Taylor as they finished work.

Memory contributed by Margaret Meldrum from Aberlour at the Aberlour Orphanage Reunion In Aberlour (September 2012) 

Additional Information

Presentation to Provost Peter Taylor

Printing Apprentice by Ron Elmore

Found the job of being a printing apprentice in a career book. Went to work for Stanford and mann at the age of 15 in 1961. Learnt how to use a Heidelberg Automatic. Left the job eventually as he didn’t want to study and joined the Merchant Navy.

Old railway trackside hut Typical of those provided to afford protection to the track maintenance gangs when they were working on the track.Later on he was a plate layer and lengthman for the railway. It was a very responsible job. His job was to maintain a particular length of line. No money in it. Became a ganger after just two years. It was a hard job out in all weathers on high speed mainlines. Did a visual inspection of the track over a ten mile distance every day. There were 16 people in a gang on a ninety mile track.  Sometimes it was very hard to hear the trains coming especially the electric ones. Just heard a humm when they were 30 yds away. The train driver blew the horn but if the wind was blowing the wrong it could be a close thing!

Memory contributed by Ron Elmore

Butchers Boy by Bill Walker

Bill worked for Charlie Brock, a Butcher in Ilchester, Somerset. He started to work there in 1939 at the age of 14. He wanted to be a butcher when he left school. His parents had to go and see the butcher and he gave them a choice. Bill could earn 7 /- 6d. while training i.e. with indentures or 10 /- 6d. without indentures (training).

One of his job’s was to delivers sheep’s brains to pregnant women. It was delivered in a wicker basket. The meat wrapped in greaseproof paper and stuck on the top with some blood. One snowy day he went up the hill with the deliveries with his butcher’s boy bike but unfortunately he fell over. All the deliveries fell out into the deep snow.  Eventually he matched the meat with each bill but couldn’t find the brain in the snow because it was white. He carried on his route and got to the house where he should have delivered the brain. The dog came to the back door. Quickly he put the ticket and some snow and ice on the stairs inside. Later on he was asked, “Did you deliver that brain to Mrs Banfield?”. The customer was told yes it had been delivered so she thought the dog had eaten it.

Charlie Brock, the butcher was a one-man business and Bill learnt how to do everything related to the butcher trade. Charlie kept sheep and steers as it was a country area and he had the land. He butchered his own animals. Bill remembers that the butcher was kind to his animals. Near to Christmas with about six weeks to go they would go to the local market to buy animals which could be fattened up for Christmas. They didn’t buy any turkeys.

Before the war they only sold mutton and sometimes New Zealand lamb. Each they made dripping by using a mutton cloth tied with string. All the beef fat scrap was thrown into a laundry pan- labelled it and put it in the muslim. Then it was put into pots for selling. There could be pork dripping too.  They also made pork sausages with no bread in them. They added used biscuit meal to the pork.

Memory contributed by Bill Wallker from Lossiemouth

The Tale of the Frozen Horse’s Head by Kenneth Ross

Here is a rather gruesome tale from Anatomical training.

Read more information about Kenneth’s working life first job and Memory of working life memory 2>>>>>

“A Biologist has to ensure that his future wife can withstand sights that the faint might do just that;  remember I did Anatomy at Med School in Edinburgh.  

Many years ago I was required to demonstrate the differences in dentition between a Carnivore and Herbivore and so seeking the jaw of the latter I contacted Edinburgh Zoo where elderly horses were slaughtered to feed the lions. I was told that they would have a jaw for me on a particular Saturday. 

Being a Scot and realising that this would be an official visit and so needn’t pay for admission to the Zoo I took my fiancée along so that we could get free entry and have a look around at the same time as collecting my jaw.   I turned up at the Lion House and introduced myself.  ‘Yes’ I was told, ‘We have a good large head for you’.  Now it never entered my head that I would be handed anything other than a beautifully cleaned upper and lower jaw and so was a bit taken aback when presented with a great, bloody head.  ‘Where’s your car? ’ I was asked.   Well we hadn’t driven and had come by bus.  ‘Never mind, we’ll wrap it up for you’, and soon I was presented with my head wrapped in brown paper and so Mary and I had to forego our free tour round the Zoo and retrace our steps to the bus stop with me carrying a large brown parcel containing my horses upper and lower jaw.  Another thing on which I hadn’t counted was the fact that at the Zoo the jaw had been kept  in a refrigerator awaiting my arrival, and by the time we reached the bus stop the blessed thing was decidedly thawing out and a stain beginning to appear through the wrapping paper.   On boarding our bus I left the jaw where one leaves luggage without drawing attention to myself;  just as well for when I hurriedly picked it up on reaching our destination there was a pool of blood in the luggage compartment.  

Anyway, we reached Mary’s digs but here we were on a Saturday morning with a whacking great, bloody, horse’s jaw; no fridge and the awareness that the thing would be stinking by Monday morning. Fortunately Mary had a large galvanised pail and soon the jaw was simmering away on the gas cooker and a few hours later I was able to take the jaw out and dissect away most of the meat- but now I was left with a considerable pile of flesh and what to do with that.   Must shorten this story. I wrapped the meat up in newspaper and took it along a street until I found a bus stop where there was a large container hanging on the stop for the disposal of used tickets.   I had to walk past the stop a couple of times to ensure there was no-one waiting: incidentally by this time my newspaper covered head was beginning to steam.   No-one at the stop –  I dropped my parcel into the container and made a hurried retreat.  I can just picture someone arriving at the stop and seeing a parcel steaming and opening it with some curiosity. (these were the days before bomb scares).  I wonder if the ambulance service had to be called to deal with someone who had collapsed with shock for it could have been a dismembered body.  Come to think of it does Edinburgh City Police still have an open file on the human remains found at a bus stop at Tollcross.   Mary needless to say survived the unexpected Test and my demonstration was very successful and no-doubt memorable to the students to whom I recounted this tale in somewhat fewer words.”

Memory contributed via email by Kenneth Ross, Forres

Additional Information
Kenneth has been involved in the Falconer Museum since he came up to Forres in 1969 to work at the new Forres Academy. Details in the Memory of working life 2 article.

Working as a beater in Speyside by Jack Cruickshank

Jack started work in the school holidays as a beater on an estate on Speyside near Keith. The shoots involved pheasant, partridge, mountain hares (on the moors), grouse and snipe. The beaters worked at the butts. The guns and the beaters walked together while the guns shot forward.

In grouse beating the birds were chased to the gun. Part of the job was to set up the guns. There were places down the side of the hill (hummocks). As you got close to the guns they were supposed to shoot over you. If you got shot you got an extra beer.

Memory contributed by John “Jack” Cruickshank from Lossiemouth

Working as a nanny by Margaret Laing

Margaret began her work as a summer job in 1953 at the age of 15. She worked Monday to Saturday. Saturday was a half day off.
cod liver oil spoon- link to site with more information about the spoon“My mother wanted me to go to secretarial college but I took the nanny job, looking after four children aged 9 months, 3 yrs, 6 yrs and 7 years for Dr. Thomson of Cod Liver Oil Cream company in Abbey St, Elgin. They later made capsules. I lived in Lossiemouth and took the bus to work starting at 9 a.m.and finishing at 6.30 p.m. Anything that needed doing for the children I did it and loved it. I remember the baby taking his first steps to me! When the 5 year-old hated going to school I went with him and stayed with him in the class. He is now a professor in South Africa. Salad cream sandwiches favourite before bed. Mrs Thomson loved to play golf and sometimes went for a weekend to Gleneagles and I would stay and look after the children. I also babysat sometimes and I did a bit of work in the factory. I did an evening class in secretarial work and typed up things for Dr. Thomson and searched Lancet for articles for him. I went abroad with the family to France in their V.W. all 7 of us. When we got to Dover it was too wild to get the ferry so we slept in the car. I remember Paris, St. Germaine and the beaches-Dinard, Mont St. Michel. The second time we went to Holland for the big exhibition in the 1950s. I went for rides with the children and Dr. Thomson caught it all on cine camera. We went to Spain too. I did balloon dancing for 6 years and got bronze, silver and gold. I also did country dancing at Lossie and met my husband. I got married in 1966 when I was 28 years old and moved to Kinloss to have my own family. I finished working for Dr. Thomson after 13 years with the family and still keep in touch. Last year I went to a big party for Dr. Thomson’s 90th birthday and met up with all the children and cousins from years ago. I had a great time as a nanny. I think it would have been dreary if I had been a secretary. “

Margaret Laing was interviewed by Jo Sweeney, a WRVS volunteer during a Kinloss Coffee morning at Kinloss Church 

Additional information
Dr Thomson’s also added his memory of his first job to this website.