Farm Servant at Lower Mains, Findrassie by Alexander Milne

In 1943 you could leave school if you had a job to go to. Alexander was able to leave school at the age of 13. He had been at Orton (Inchberry). Findrassie Estate is a private estate. the war was still on. Working on the farm were two men, the farmer and his son. He earned 15 /- a week working a six day week Monday to Saturday. His mother was bedridden (she had housemaid’s knee) and Alexander and he wanted to get out to work to help the family. The doctor needed to be paid when he visited. Often people used their own remedies. She did get better eventually. Alexander left home to go and live at the farm, St. Mary’s farm, Orton.

National Service at Spandau Prison

Rudolf Hess Source: Wikipedia on a Wikicommons licenseHis next job was to work in forestry which kept him busy until it was time to do his National Service. He was called up in 1948. He spent his time in Germany on guard duties at Spandau Prison. He spent three days on guard duty, 3 days at a barracks in Berlin where he worked at the GOC offices and then three days off. During guard duty he was paired with someone else. At any one time there were three people on duty and three people off duty. The shifts went as follows for three days:-

Each shift lasted 2 hours.
2 hours on duty
2 hours off duty either eating sleeping or talking
then 2 hours on duty again for three days………………………………..

When not duty there were chairs to sit or sleep in within a barrack room. No beds.
Most of the guard duty was spent at the main gate and not with the prisoner. Rudolf Hess was a most-well-known prisoner and he spent his time in prison by himself.
There was a kitchen staff of 2 and 1 person in charge and that was it for the whole prison. . From 1966 until his death in the prison in 1987 he was the only prisoner.

Forestry work after National Service
After he had been in the army Sandy went back to Forestry working at Teineland nr Orton for the Forestry Commission. He married Constance in 1951. He was a Gamekeeper/Trapper. The estate used snares to trap rabbits and vermin (squirrels were in this category). Capercaille ate the young trees so they were also trapped. They are a protected species now. Deer were also stalked as they ate the trees too.

In 1970 he moved to work at Newton Nursery, a Forestry Commission site nr. Elgin, until the end of his working life.

Memory contributed by Alexander Milne from Elgin

Additional information

Rudolf Hess’s stay in Spandau prison-
New York Times Archive article- Spandau Prison: Hess’s Lonely Dungeon

More information on the regime at the prison after seven prisoners arrived after the Nurenberg Trials in 1947. Here it suggests that the guard duty changed monthly with a different country taking over. It rotated between the UK, US, France and the Soviet Union. Sandy mentoned he worked on a 3 day cycle. Guarding 3 days, 3 days in Berlin and then 3 days off.  

Information on the Forestry Commission Nursery at Newton.

Information about Newton house on the Scotlands Places websiteNewton House near Elgin was the county seat of G.A. Fortreath Esq. It was built in 1793.

Building at risk register lists Newton house (see page 10). There is a photograph of the house as it is now.

Newton House on the Geolocation website It was extensively damaged by fire. Here is some more information about the house and its history. .


Memories of Sheep’s head Soup by Susan Marshall

Hot water bottles took the form of ceramic bottles called piggies. They were dressed up like dollies. In her house they were very short of money as there were seven of us. Took 2 peats to school every day for the fire. As there were seven of them they had to take 14 pieces of peat a day to school. It was Waternish Primary School, Isle of Skye. The family lived in a croft and her father was a sea-captain in the merchant navy which was the reason for the three year gap between each of the four of the children.

Making sheep’s head soup
A poker was put on the fire to singe the hair off before the head was cooked in a pot on the fire. If the beard wasn’t singed off the soup didn’t taste the same. Susan liked the tongue part of the head once it was cooked. The family also ate salted fish. There were no fridges in the crofts so salt was used a method of preservation.

Memory contributed by Susan Marshall from Elgin

Additional Information
Recipe for Sheep’s head soup and forcemeat  The latter uses the brain and the tongue so there is no waste!

Claire Wilson’s memoirs of working at Woolworths Horticulture department in Elgin.

Woolworths_in_Elgin_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1063056Claire wanted to work in the stockroom as there was more freedom there and it was more fun. Unfortunately her first job was in the shop downstairs so she soon left to go and work at Cooper Park Cafe (now an Indian takeaway near the Museum at the end of the High Street). It sold coffee/tea, homebakes  and icecream. There was also soup for lunches. Quite soon after her move the staff supervisor came from Woolworths to persuade Claire to come back. She said Claire could go and work in the stockroom because she knew that was where Claire had wanted to work before she left.

The stockroom work was Monday to Saturday 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. with an hour off for lunch. Thre was a canteen. She was in charge of 5 or 6 departments upstairs and it was really heavy work. Sometimes she went down to serve customers if asked (they often hid!). Didn’t do the ordering just unpacking. The Quines gave us a list of what they needed. We put it in wicker baskets and it went down in the lift. We enjoyed ourselves in the stockroom.

Had an annual ball in the assembly rooms, which were across the road on the same side of the High Street. She remembers the Woolworths fire which happened on a Sunday. They had to work out of the Assembly Rooms and Mutch’s premises (was empty at the time) so they could rent it  while the repairs were done.

There is another memory of the fire on the site by Marion Tawse who worked on the Coronation counter at Woolworths.

Memory contributed by Clare Wilson neé Mackenzie from Elgin

Additional information

Elgin High Street Then and Now– Look at the old photographs at the bottom of the modern High street Photo. There are some photos of the interior of the Assembly rooms and even a picture of the Woolworths building back in 1900.

Covesea Dairy Shop Assistant by Mary More

Mary worked at the Covesea Dairy from 1949. She was 16 at the time. Covesea Farm dairy was based at Queen Street in Lossiemouth. It sold milk in glass bottles, eggs and vegetables. She scrubbed the concrete floor with a pail, water, a scrubbing brush and a bar of hard soap- Fairy Soap. She did this in between serving customers even on a Sunday (though most people went to church).  She worked Monday to Saturday and every second Sunday morning 9.00 a.m.-1 p.m. At the dairy there were office girls who also worked on a Sunday.

Scotch pancake and Scottish crumpet: Photograph taken 6 February 2006 by User:Dave souza. Any re-use to contain this licence notice and to attribute the work to User:Dave souza at Wikipedia.From Monday to Saturday her first job was to make pancakes on a large griddle. She made the recipe with pints of milk, eggs, self-raising flour. The special ingredients was danish fat. Monday morning- The Ladies Guild came in for a smaller size of pancakes which they picked up on Monday morning. They were ordered at the weekend. Local customers bought pancakes. Made a couple of batches for a couple of hours each morning. Bread came from Austin the bakers under a glass case. Everybody brought their own basket or bag. In the late 40s and early 50s eggs were rationed. Nearly had a job at the Egg Packing plant in Elgin but got the dairy job.

Horse and carts did three rounds delivering the milk around the town. They collected the money from the customers. Other people came in to pay as “shop customers”. They also sold vegetables, potatoes (tatties), carrots, turnips (neeps) and cauliflowers. Fruit was sold in season. Had an orchard @ Covesea. Crab apples were in demand for crab apple jelly. There were blackberries in Findrassie. Lots of people came from Glasgow to Hopeman. They were called Broons if they came from Glasgow. Lots of tourists had holiday homes in Lossiemouth including the Wills Tobacco Family. Some people took in summer visitors.

She changed her accent for the English. There was a navy base in HMS Fulmar (now RAF Lossiemouth).

Spynie Hospital
Her sister got scarlet fever in 1939 at the age of 4. She went to stay at Spynie Hospital. The house was sprayed including the living and the bedroom. You couldn’t see her except to bring her to the window and you could wave at each other. The doctor’s visits cost a guinea but the hosptial was free. Their doctor was Dr Brander. Her sister remembers eating rice pudding.

Memory contributed by Mary More at the Duffus Fair 2012

Additional Information

Marion Ingram has written about the origins of the Hopeman Gala and the role of the Broons its creation. Read her memory here.

Working as a whisky warehouseman in Dufftown

 Empty oak barrels waiting to be filled with whisky at the White and MacKay distillery in Invergordon. The distillery is one of the largest in Scotland and produces grain whisky (from unmalted barley) that after maturation for several years in oak barrels is used in the production of blended whiskies  source Wikicommons using the Creative Commons licence

Empty oak barrels waiting to be filled with whisky at the White and MacKay distillery in Invergordon.

Entering working life in Lochnagar distillery in 1959 the working man had benefit of dramming. At a whisky production facility the brewer served out whisky which was clearic or new whisky. It was up to a week old and hadn’t been stored in a barrel yet. Warehouseman got the benefit of mature whisky as there was no manufacture of whisky at the warehouse. The practice of dramming was stopped by Customs and Excise due to the Health and Safety at Work Act and the introduction of breathalyzer tests for drivers.

A picture of Speyside Cooperage  source- Wikicommons

A picture of Speyside Cooperage source- Wikicommons

Description English: Speyside Cooperage Source from

This distillery used plain casks made by a cooper. He used put a burn on the cask. The charring helps to remove impurities from the new spirit. It can also add colour and flavour. The distillery bought in sherry, port and bourbon barrels. They only used the bourbon barrels once. A cask = a barrel in the whisky industry. Sometimes the distillery would be sent bundles of staves made of oak wood. They were known as “American barrels”.

Types of cask
Butt cask 115 gallons
Puncheon cask 115 gallons
Imperial Cask 130 gallons
Hog’s Head cask 50 gallons
American barrel 140 gallons
Quarter cask 32-33 gallons
Peg Cask 4-5 gallons

Additional information

Plain cask

A plain cask is one which has already been used for the use of whisky and so cannot impart any of the flavours from its previous content (sherry or bourbon).

Barrel making
There are numerous videos showing cooperages making barrels.

William Robertson’s memory of working at Upper Craigton Farm in Kincardine O’Neil

Upper Craigton source: Geolocation and wikicommons“I started work at the age of 15 in 1952.  I worked on Upper Craigton Farm at Kinkardine O’Neil.  I had to live in a timber bothy with the farmer and stayed there all week. Then I had Saturday afternoon and Sunday off when I went home.  I had a bike and was able to cycle 14 miles home on a Wednesday night and also at weekends.

I started work at 7am when I had to take in the cow for the farmer’s mother to milk.  We would then have porridge for breakfast then I would go back to work.  One of my jobs was to work in the fields hoeing turnips, which took about 14 days.  The mother looked after me very well.  She would come out at 9am and give me a jam jar of milk and some bread.  I’d continue hoeing until dinner time, and then went back to the farm and had home made soup, which sometimes had feathers in!  Back to the hoeing then back to the farm for tea which was porridge and an egg.  The eggs were boiled in the kettle and then the tea was made with the same water!  

I worked there for 2 years and then left because the farmer would have had to pay more National Insurance as I was 18.  He got rid of me and employed another boy, but I often went back because I liked the mother, and I looked after the tractor, maintaining it and driving it (I was 11 when I started to drive tractors)!  I continued to do farm work until I was called up for National Service.  I went into the Army for 3 years because the money was good.  I went to Malaya for 2 and a half years and spent a lot of time in the jungle.  I then came back to farm related work for the rest of my working life.”

William Robertson was interviewed in Elgin by Heather Heppenstall, WRVS volunteer

Jessie Robertson’s life as a farmworker in Alvah

“I had no secondary school education and had to obtain special permission from the local education authority to leave school early to look after my mother who had TB, and to work on the farm.  The farm was in Alvah near Banff.  I was 13 and the year was 1945.  I had one day off a week which was mart day at Tulloch, and I would go there with my father.  I was paid 2/6d every Friday.  My day started at 5.30am hand milking the cows and I would then go in for breakfast which we cooked over an open fire, and then out to feed the sheep and the cattle, then I would come back in and help to look after my mother.  Sometimes she was well enough to get up.  I also had to help look after my twin sisters and brother.  I had to help with the harvest, taking in the turnips, tattie picking, hay making, all done by hand.  We had 2 horses which we used for ploughing.  Basically, I worked all day until I went to bed, and then up again at 5.30am (I still get up at 5.30am)!  My mother died when I was 19 and I continued to work on the farm until I was 25, when I started my nurse training, and continued working as a nurse until I was 72.

We had no other help except at harvest and haymaking time, when all the farms helped each other, but we had lots of fun.  I remember a radio being delivered and thought it was absolutely wonderful. I enjoyed going out to Linhead Hall for dances when I could get away.”

Jessie Robertson was interviewed in Elgin by Heather Heppenstall, a WRVS volunteer

Additional information

Hike over bridge of AlvahDuffhouse and the bridge of Alvah walk.

This circuit from the magnificent Duff House – now a museum and part of the National Gallery of Scotland – takes in part of the former estate. The focal point is the 17th century Bridge of Alvah, towering high over the impressive gorge of the River Deveron.

Horse Ploughing
Click here to see a Horse ploughing film on Scottish Screen onlineWatch 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.

National Bank of Australasia Shorthand Secretary by Angela Wallis

II had to type the monthly wool letter- six carbon copies. It was sent all across Europe. Our office in Princes Street (London) had a lift operated by a man who pulled a cable up and down. I worked in the basement. We had 1/2 hour for lunch. 3 /- luncheon vouchers. I gave Mum £2 per week and kept nothing for myself. The working day began at 9 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m. There was 10 minutes in the morning and afternoon for a break. I often joined my Dad at a sandwich bar in Woolworths, Cheapside. On Saturday the working hours were 9-1 p.m. I was asked to type but didn’t use my shorthand very much. I also did the post. I liked all my fellow workers. There was no talking in the office and it was quite cold. The Steam trams made my clothes dirty. There was a “sit up and beg” typewriter. A gestetner for making copies. It was very messy. In my time off I went to the cinema, dancing, traditional jazz concerts, tennis and the proms. I stayed 5 years. They asked me to leave when I got married. In 1953 the new West End Office opened in time for the Royal Wedding. We organised seats for visiting ozzies to watch. I became Secretary to the Manager. On June 30 and 31st December we had to stay and help until the Teller/ Cashier had balanced the books. Sometimes this took until midnight.

I spent 20 years in Africa with my husband, John who was an engineer, Met Office in Lusaka. I worked for the Kaunda Government with 51% takeovers of commerce. John was Chair of the Zambia Tennis. We played with and watched Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith.  We entertained other International Tennis Stars. We spent all our holidays in game parks, walking with elephants etc… travelled the world on our long leaves. I sang for the Queen in Lusaka Cathedral in the 70s by which time I had forgotten verses 2 and 3 of our National Anthem! We sponsored our garden boy, Paul Mwansa for GCE and accountancy training and by the time we left he was the Financial Controller of the Government owned Zambia Hotel Corporation!  We were very proud.”

Angela earned £3 12/- 6d. The uniform cost 12 /- 6 d. The season ticket cost £1 from Surrey. Angela worked in the City of London in 1952 and at the new West End office from 1953-7. Her holidays were two weeks per annum and one Saturday off in 8.

Angela Mary Wallis submitted her memory on a printed memory submission form and sent it into Elgin Library