Vera’s first job as a waitress at the Playhouse Cinema café

The Playhouse Café was located on the right as you went into the cinema. Vera started work there at the age of 17 in 1937. She wore a navy/black frock as a uniform and an apron. Her duties included taking orders and serving tea. China tea cups were used to serve tea. At this time the cinema still had its main entrance off the main street and there was only one screen. The cinema was divided into two in 1986. Vera does not remember a piano even though she saw silent films played there as well as talkies. The back seats of the cinema were reserved for the courting couples.

In her spare time Vera went dancing. Later on she worked for a tailoress in the High Street. She made Ladies’ skirts and altered Men’s trousers.

Additional Information

More information about Scottish Cinema and Theatre ProjectElgin cinema history from Scottish cinema.org.uk.

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Petrie Dick recording

The Petrie dick is a small toy which was popular in schools in the North-East of Scotland. Here is a recording of local resident, Margaret Forsyth playing it at the recent Christmas Lights switch on in Elgin. Margaret’s Father used to make the toy for his family from spare pieces of wood.

Click here to play an audio clip of a Petrie Dick toy being playedaudio  recording of a Petrie Dick being played

an image of the Petrie Dick musical toyHere is a link to more information about the Petrie dick toy.

Farm work and staying in a chaumer at Greenfold Farm by Norman Adie

Polytunnels at Barra  © Copyright Andrew Wood and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Polytunnels at Barra © Copyright Andrew Wood and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Norman left school at the age of 14 and went to work as a farm servant at Greenfold Farm near Oldmeldrum. He was given a bed in the chaumer, a small building by itself which he shared it with his older brother. Each weekend he cycled 7 miles home with his br other  to South Mains of Barra, Oldmeldrum where his Father worked. There had been no work there when Norman left school so he had followed his brother. He earned 10 /- a week which he handed over to his mother and got pocket money back.

The day started with breakfast in the farm-house. There was brose made with hot water and salt. This you made yourself. Porridge was for tea and then at dinnertime was soup(e.g. tattie or broth), crowdie cheese (made on the farm) and breed (home-made oatcakes). Norman enjoyed the work. Cattle were fattened up and used to provide milk for the dairy.

He used his earning to buy clothes and at visits to the local dance hall.

Memory contributed by Norman Adie from Elgin

Forestry tree planter at Newton by James McPherson

Newton House by CA Miller  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Newton House by CA Miller This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution

James started his job as a tree planter at the Newton Forestry commission site near Elgin in 1939. It was the only job he could get at the time at the age of 14. He needed to get a bike to cycle to Newton and back home. Three of his workmates walked from Hopeman to Newton everyday (distance 4 1/2 miles – 1 hr 35 mins). He earned 19 /- a week and had the weekends off. He gave his earnings to his parents. He started work at 8 o’clock and then had a tea break at 9.30 a.m. For his lunch he had sandwiches, a banana and a drink. The work day ended at 4.30 p.m. In winter James worked in a shed. Everything was done by hand in those days. There was no training. When he wasn’t working he played bowls and played football. After working in Forestry he went to work at the Greenbrae Quarry in Cummingston as a labourer. Then he went on to work on the Kinloss RAF base for 25 years washing Nimrods and Shackletons.

James MacPherson was interviewed by Cora Mackenzie, a pupil at Burghead Primary School.

Donald’s first job as a relief porter at the Scotia Hotel in Edinburgh

Donald’s first job was a relief porter at the Scotia Hotel on Great King Street.  He went each day after school from the age of 15 in 1948.  His mother was the manageress at the Hotel. He also worked as a paperboy at around the same age. The bus trips came into Edinburgh around 5- 6p.m. to stay for two days visiting the city. Donald was paid about £1 10/- a week giving his earning to his mother as was customary at the time. He was kept busy taking the bags upstairs to their rooms. Lots of famous people came up to the hotel including Leading ‘Carousel’ singer, Edmund Hawkridge. He also worked as a paper boy.

George-Herriot-high-school by Dave Morris from Oxford, UK. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

George-Herriot-high-school by Dave Morris from Oxford, UK. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

He went to George Herriot School in Edinburgh. It was and is a fee-paying school and he attended with a free place because his Father was in the first World War.

In 1952 he was called up to do his National service. he spent the two years in England based at several camps including Tern Hill Barracks in Shropshire and Hednesford in Staffordshire.

Later in life he worked in the whisky industry as a Distillery Manager at a number of distilleries. They included Ben Rinnes, Bracklea Distillery and Burghead Maltings.

The Talisker Distillery  © Copyright Nick W and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Talisker Distillery © Copyright Nick W and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Earlier in his career he was a Trainee Assistant Manager at Talisker Distillery. He stayed in one of the local worker cottages about 1/4 mile away. One night in 1960 he was awoken by one of the night shift along with other staff as the still house was on fire. Someone had forgotten to shut a valve. Then the whisky was heated over coal furnaces and so the spilt whiskey reached the fire below and so the building was able to set alight. The still house had an old-fashioned slate timbered roof with traditionally built walls. They managed to save the rest of the distillery from the fire but the distillery still had to close down for 18 months while the distillery was re-built. Workers were given work in the remaining maltings and the warehouses. No-one was laid off as far as Donald knew. During the renovation Donald was sent to work in other locations on the site and at other distilleries with the same owners. The new stills were heated by the coils inside them. The stone from old walls was thrown in Loch Harport.

Donald Matherson was interviewed at the Work and No Play Event held at Elgin Library