Jean grew up on Bomakelloch farm in Drummuir . Her parents Jane “Jeannie” and William Stewart, were tenants on the farm. her father was 50 when Jean was born in 1930. her mother was 40. She was the seventh in the family to arrive. Before her were four brothers, 2 older sisters and then after Jean a younger sister. There were two front bedrooms and one back bedroom, which Jean had to herself. In addition to this there was a back bedroom above the kitchen. This was accessed through a back stair through the back door. The men who worked on the farm stayed in this room. It was called a “chaumer”. Her mother cooked for everyone on the farm. There was brose (oatmeal with added salt, pepper and boiling water). Porridge was made in a big pot with oatmeal and salt. Cream was sometimes added to the porridge. Dinner was 12 noon and her mother made soup (tattie, pea and broth). She started to help on the farm as soon as she could walk by hoeing turnips and picking tatties. She enjoyed helping with the lambing and sometimes the calving too.
Her eldest brothers were called up for the Second world war. William was in the RAF and Tommy was sent to South Africa with the Parachute Regiment. They could have stayed on the farm as it was a protected occupation but they wanted to be the same as their “mates”. The farm wasn’t really affected by rationing as they had access to milk to make cheese and eggs from hens (which they ate sometimes too!). The land was unsuitable to grow wheat so they bought that in.
Prisoners of War
The Sandyhillock & Knockando POW camp was near to her parents’ farm at Elchies. Each day a lorry would bring a group of men from the camp to work at the farm. The 4 or 5 mostly young single men enjoyed working at the farm. They brought pieces of bread with them along with ground coffee and Jean’s mother made them dinner with everyone else. Initially she had to be shown by one of the Italian POWs called Mario how to make coffee. Later on in the war Germans POWs also arrived at the camp. Towards the end of the war or just after her mother decided one day to take two of the POWs to the local cinema as a treat. As this sort of activity was not allowed for POWs she had to dress the two germans up in long black overcoats to hide the PW lettering on their trousers below their knees along with the PW written across the backs of their black tops. After the war Eric Penno, one of the German POWs stayed behind. Eventually he married Margaret, one of Jean’s sisters. He did return to Germany to see him family after war but returned to continue working at Bomakelloch. Another German POW called Hans Dobler wanted to stay on after the end of the war. Jean’s mother told him they were happy to have him but that he should first go back to see his family Germany. She was conscious of how she would feel if her son had been away as a POW during the war and he then chose not to come back to see his family afterwards. Hans did return to Germany to see his family but he chose to stay back in Germany and keep in touch by letter as he does to this day. Eric did go back to see his family but returned eventually marrying Margaret in 1951 at Botriphine Church.
Crowdie cheese is made by mixing milk with salt and rennet. After the cheese separates it is added to a cheese press. There was top to the cheese press which was pressed down to squeeze out the whey. After it was pressed it was called Crowdie. The cheese was about the size of a dinner plate and about 28 inches high. It was kept in the milk house situated at the back of the house. There were thick stone slate shelves. The cheese can be allowed to dry out further or be eaten straightaway. The soft crumbly textured cheese was lovely with oatcakes. Oatcakes were made at home. The milk was brought into the milking house still warm from the cows. It was poured into large wide shallow enamel bowls. Over the next day the cream rose to the top and it was skimmed off for butter. Butter was made in a glass jar with a screw top and a handle. The paddle inside turned the cream to separate the butter out. It took longer if the cream was cool. The butter was left unsalted and kept stored as butter pats. Wooden butter pats shaped the butter with ridges. The ridges stopped the butter sticking to the butter pats. None of the butter was sold as it was used in the farm kitchen.
The women in the farmhouse did all the baking. When she was young there was no oven in the kitchen. Instead there a huge open fire and a “girdle” (griddle) to make scones, oatcakes and bannocks. During the summer months wild raspberries and blaeberries were collected to make jam. The farm also had blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes. When sugar was on ration during and just after the second world war the family made a decision to stop having sugar in their drinks so there was sufficient sugar for jam. A 1lb jam jar was filled with sugar for one of the workman who would not give up sugar in his drinks. He used it to the last spoonful. Jean remembers the resentment as this particular person would then happily eat the jam that everyone else have sacrificed their sugar ration for.
Jean had two older sisters (who later married farmers) and one younger sister. Jean hated sewing and her younger sister enjoyed it. She had learnt dressmaking. Jean remembers at the age of 15 or 16 her sister taking over some particularly annoying sewing task. Jean warned her husband before she married him that she hated sewing and she would not be making him clothes. (At the interview she shared the thought that “SHE STILL HATES SEWING”). She bought her wedding dress while her younger sister made her own. She didn’t mind knitting.
Lambing usually took place during the Easter Holidays when the lambs could benefit from the fresh grass. Each ewe usually had two lambs though occasionally there were triplet and single births. The ewe only has two teats to feed the lamb milk so the optimum birth was two. If there were more than two then the lambs were allowed to feed on the first milk (colostrum), which is very important as it is rich in nutrients and anti-bodies safeguarding against infection. One of the lambs is taken away and given to a ewe that has lost its lamb for some reason. If presented early after an unsuccessful birth a ewe will take on another lamb as its own. This common practice on the farm. If a ewe is struggling to feed its lamb than the lamb can be given to a more experienced ewe with plenty of milk. Jean has seen a ewe look after three of her own lambs if she has lots of milk.
The cows usually had one calf, sometimes two. The vet would need to be called to help out if there was a problem.
After her marriage to a local farmer in 1957 Jean and her husband built up a farming business initially at Little Pitlurg. In 1963 they acquired the tenancy of the farm at the Mains of Pitlurg from the Laird Gordon-Duff of Drummuir. In the 1970s Jean and her husband heard that the Estate was considering allowing the sale of some farm houses. They arranged for the factor to visit their farms and decide on a valuation. The Laird agreed to sell both properties and Jean and her husband became land owners for the first time. Her son runs Little Pitlurg now.
Memory contributed by Jean Mark from Keith
Jimmy Green worked for Jean’s parents and latterly her brother, William. He has shared his memory of working at Bomakelloch with this project earlier this year.
Here is a website devoted to antique dairy equipment including butter churns.
There are many examples of butter churns on the internet.
You tube video of an antique butter churn in use making butter.
Wikipedia page about how to churn butter. There are many website which show us how to make butter.
Crowdie- more information about the cheese Crowdie
Prisoners of War
Imperial War museum- archive recordings- There are archive recordings of Eric Penno and his wife Margaret. Eric was captured in North Africa and brought to POW camp near Keith during world war 2. The Libindx database has a marriage record of 4th May 1951, Botriphine Church. The Banffshire Herald has an article about the marriage.
There are several website with recipes for girdles and photographs of them in use.