“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
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.
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.