Working as a van porter for Henderson’s Furniture by Peter Logie

Hendersons_furniture ElginPeter started work at the age of 15 in 1956. His first job was at Henderson’s furniture in Elgin.  He had left school with no qualifications and he had heard about the job. Peter felt that in those days there were jobs for anyone willing to work. The Local Mills could be difficult to get work in. Young people had their names put down for mill work several years earlier, by their parents who worked there. Peter’s working week ran from Monday to Friday with a half day on Saturday. He earned around £5-6 per week with two weeks holiday annual leave including Christmas Day as a holiday.  Peter’s Father was in the building trade and for him Christmas Day was a working day with New Year’s day as a day off.

Peter delivered new furniture from Henderson’s and also did removals all over Elgin through to Aberdeen and Inverness. On a rare occasion he stayed overnight. It was very hard work with lots of heavy lifting. Four people were on the removal team and two people on furniture deliveries. Sometimes getting furniture into houses was difficult. Windows could be a useful way of getting furniture into a house. Peter stayed in the job for three years and he really enjoyed it.

He went on to work for Grant Furniture until he was made redundant. Looking for a change he took a job as a kitchen porter washing dishes and general “odd bod”.  One day the Head Chef was ill and the owner came down and said  “Peter, you are doing breakfast tomorrow”. From then on he continued to work in the kitchen as a Commis Chef for 2-3 years. He went to college at Elgin Technical College to do his City and Gulids 7061. From there he went to work at the Seafield Arms in Cullen returning to take his City and Guilds 7062 (distinction pass) then back to Cullen for a further 2 years. Peter moved from there to work at the Eight Acres, where he remained the second chef for the next twenty years. He did not want to be the Head Chef as there was a lot of organisational work involved. The hotel had around sixty bedrooms and held functions for up to 200. Most nights there were 40 covers to serve. Peter liked being busy.

Leather strap from the Keith Memory Blog website

Leather strap from the Keith Primary School Memory Blog website

Old Bishopmill School memory
The original Bishopmill Primary School was on Balmoral Terrace and it closed in the mid 1930s moving to its current position on Morriston Road. Peter was at both schools. He remembers taking home the leather strap so as to avoid receiving it as a punishment. Unfortunately his idea was flawed as his Father used the strap to give him 6 lashes for taking it and then when he took it back to school he got six more from the Head Master for stealing!

Memory contributed by Peter Logie at the Messages and Memories Event at Elgin Library in June 2014


Book Binder Assistant in Aberdeen by Jane MacDonald

Jane started work in 1948 as a book binder’s assistant for a Printers between Union Street and St. Nicholas Street in Aberdeen. She was 17 years old. She fed the cutting machine, which cut the paper for the books. There were three different paper sizes for the books. She didn’t see the printing side of the operation. Jane worked from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m alongside another girl on the same shift. One person fed the paper into the cutting machine and the other person took out the paper and put the cut paper into boxes. Even though they did not wear protective gloves she doesn’t remember getting paper cuts. There was a break in the morning in a small kitchen. Jane worked there for just over a year. In 1949 there was a paper shortage so the job stopped as the printing company had to lose staff when the production stopped and the paper supply halted. Jane lost her job along with another girl who had started at the same time following the “last in first out ” principle.

Her next job was at the Woolworths at Union Street in Aberdeen as a sales assistant. Rationing was still in place from the Second World War. Customers had to present coupons and were only allowed so many sweets each. Each coupon was cut out of the ration book. The counter had a variety of sweets including Liquorice Allsorts, caramels, fruit gums, fruit pastilles, pontefract cakes (liquorice) and pan drops (form of white mint imperial). Hard candy was presented in long trays to be broken into pieces with a hammer. 

Generally they could not get chocolate if they did get the occasional boxes of chocolates there were long lines of people queuing for them. Adults bought most of the sweets as the Mother in the family often had control of the sweet coupons. They were in a family ration book and if it was lost it would not be replaced so children would not usually be entrusted with it.

Jane then moved upstairs to the Grocery counter. Jane enjoyed working at Woolworths. Mainly women worked there with the exceptions of the Manager and the Under Manager (Mr France). The Grocery sold dry goods such as tea, cocoa, rice, flour, oats, soup mix etc…. but no coffee. Tea was sold in packages as was the cocoa. There was very little fruit to sell. Occasionally loose biscuits would arrive and then there would be a long queue for that.

Memory contributed by Jane MacDonald from Keith

Additional Information

A blog by a graphic design student shows pictures of the Woolworths building along with information on the closure of the Woolworths shops.

The High Street Blog showing Woolworths on Union Street, Aberdeen There is also a page with photographs of the Woolworths shop then and now.

Alistair Riach’s first job for Scott the Grocers in Bishopmill, Elgin

Alistair started working for Scott the Grocers at the age of 13 in 1948. His Mother said “You have to go out and make some money”. Scott the Bakers was situated next to the Chemist shop (where the Co-op shop is now). Bishopmill did not have a lot of shops.He delivered baked goods and collected orders all over Bishopmill using his message bike. A sack of potatoes would just fit into a bike carrier. During the winter it was very hard work. He handed over his earnings to his mother for his keep. He worked from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. and then 4 p.m. until 6 p.m going to work in between.

In his free time he went to dances at the Lido and saw films at the Elgin playhouse. The children also went swimming in the River Lossie. They only wore shoes for school and took them off once they got out of school to keep them “nice”. When they wore the shoes the socks would be darned with a tennis ball.

He remembers his Granny putting spare porridge in  a drawer. Pieces could be cut off as oatcakes. Sometimes she would cut a slide off and fry it. One day she gave Alistair a Mars bar and said “That’s your tea, there is a meal in a Mars.” 

Additional Information
The Porridge drawer tradition is well established in the north-east of Scotland.

Memory contributed by Alistair Riach from Elgin.

Isabel’s work at Daniel Young Grocers in Hopeman

Shop Assistant at Daniel Young Grocers in Hopeman at 14 years old when started I940. Reason for choice – to few jobs not a choice.

Serving customers in the shop- groceries, paint etc… Count the stamps for the groceries. Work at the Counter and drawer for money. Groceries in jars on shelves. Cornflakes were just starting to come in. Oatmeal was very popular. Days off holidays Half day Wednesday 9-6 p.m every day but Sunday. Wage 7/- 50p Did you keep earnings? – Hand over to family. Typical day Start at 9am no breaks 1-2 p.m. Went home for lunch. Finish 6 p.m. Liked meeting customers – groceries were rationed wasn’t a lot of money. Scales used for weighing, sugar and butter and nothing was in a packet, Carried groceries in a basket of their own. It was safe place to work?
No training for the job. Home at 6 p.m. Did a lot of knitting. Nights were dark due to no lights. Stayed til 1945. Married in 1946

Isobel McPherson from Hopeman was interviewed by Cara Mackenzie, a Burghead Primary School pupil

Working as a milk girl by Jessie Fountain

Jessie Fountain on the left of the pictureWhen Jessie left school at the age of 15 in 1939 she was willing to take any job she could get. She had done well as school at Forres Academy with an A in French and Latin.  She worked for a shop in Forres delivering milk on her bike. She joined the Auxilliary Territorial Service (ATS). In 1942 she married a member of the RAF. They were married for fifty years. In 1944 she was expecting her daughter while her husband was stationed away in Iceland. When the Second World War started her husband had been living in Persia (Iran) working as an oil engineer for the Anglo Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). He joined up with his brother and came to Bedford. They returned to Iran so that her husband could return to his previous work for AIOC. In 1948 they got an old house on one floor which had beds outside under nets. It took a while to get used to sleeping outside but it was more comfortable in the heat. Each night the servants took the beds outside for them. Later on they moved to a lovely new bungalow.   

When trouble came to Iran in 1951 Jessie and her family were part of an emergency evacuation. It was very sudden and very painful. She remembers the children crying as they their flight home.

Memory contributed by Jessie Fountain from Forres

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company agreement with the Iranian Government 1949

Anglo-Iranian Oil Company agreement with the Iranian Government 1949

Additional Information
Information about the Anglo-Persian (became Iranian in 1935) Oil Company and the National Iranian Oil Company. AIOC became British Petroleum in 1954.

The History of British Petroleum (BP) including its origins with AIOC.

Working as Post Mistress at Logie Post Office by Jean Raphael

 Raphael Cathay Nursing HomeJean started her working life in 1934 at the age of 14 helping her Mother run their local post office and shop in Logie. Prior to that she had attended the school in Logie just behind the shop. Jean and family lived in the same building and her Mother was the postmistress. Her Father, a farm worker had died fairly young and Jean’s Mother, Caroline had to support Jean and her two older sisters by herself.

Logie House   This was an estate of the Cummings (Comyns) of Logie, rivals of Robert the Bruce. The earliest part of the house dates from 1655, it was rebuilt in the late 18th century and re-styled in 1860 with crow-stepped gables, white harled and with angle turrets.

Logie House

The van brought the deliveries once a week from a supplier in Elgin. The post office sold lots of stamps, postal orders and national insurance stamps. Money was sent to Elgin weekly. The shop was a busy place. Most of the customers were farm workers. Logie House servants were also regular visitors and occasionally the lady of the house would pay a visit. The shop was able to run an Austin car. Her older sister worked in the post office as well. Jean took over as postmistress and eventually her daughter followed Jean into the same post.

Memory contributed by Jean Raphael from Forres

Working in the Black Ledgers in Liverpool by Norma Gebert

Norma Gerbert, her brother and baby sister at the orphanage on Woolton Road Liverpool. Photograph was supplied is used with the permission of her daughter, Linda Shaw

Norma Gerbert, her brother and baby sister at Liverpool Orphanage

Norma had been affected with poor hearing from an early learning having been stuck down with deafness at the age of 7. One day she was at home playing and she said to her mother “The clock has stopped.”
Her Mother checked and said “No it hasn’t.”
“Yes it has. I can’t hear it.”
Her Father took her to see the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist and the hospital were able to restore some of her hearing in her right ear however she never regained hearing on her left side. Sadly her Father had died when she was seven in about 1938. Her mother was unable to obtain any family support to help her with her three young children so she could go out to work so she made the very hard decision to place them in Liverpool Orphanage, which was on Myrtle Street and then moved to a new site on Woolton Road, Childwell in 1934. Norma, her brother and sister stayed there until she started work. This included an evacuation to the Lake District. The children were  evacuated to the Lake Dsitrict in 1940. The girls went to Wanlass How at Ambleside and the boys to Hawse End. The orphanage stayed there until 1952. Norma started work at the cake shop (Black Ledgers) back in Liverpool in 1945 at the age of 14.

Memory contributed by Norma Gebert from Aberlour

Additional Information

Norma Gerbert bedspread close-upHere is a photograph of a beautiful bedspread she made recently even though she cannot see very well at all these days.

Norma Gerbert with her bedspread

Norma Gebert with her bedspread

bedspread made by Norma GerbertInformation about the Liverpool Orphange and its origins.Pictures of the Myrtle Street Liverpool Orphange buildings before they moved to a new site on Woolton Road, Childwell in 1934.

Hawse End is next to Derwent Water. There is a pier at the bottom of the hill. It is now an outdoor centre, which is why we borrow it in the holidays when it is shut over Christmas.

Wanlass How Orphanage (now Ambleside Park)
This is the place where Norma stayed in the Lake District from the age of seven (about 1938-45) . It is now called Ambleside Park Hotel and is part of the John Lewis Partnership. It appears to be a benefit for current and Retired John Lewis workers.

The National Archives have Wanlass How Orphanage files .There is a book written about the Liverpool Orphanage. It is called the House on the Hill Revisited by Glenda Walton.

Family information on the McIver family, Owners of Wanlass Howe.

Hawse End Orphanage (now an Outdoors Centre for Cumbria County Council)
The house was owned by a famous suffragette called Catherine Marshall and she lent it to Liverpool Council as an Orphanage. She went back to the house in 1956 to clear it ready to sell. She left boxes of records in the house it appears with the purpose of telling her view of the story of the suffragette movement. The Orphanage staff appear to have left records in there too when they left to return to Liverpool in 1952. Here is a list of the case files left in the house when it was sold to Cumberland County Council.
William Edge is Norma’s brother. His file is dated 1938-1944.

Paper Boy in Wallasey by Alan Clarke

Balta sound © Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Balta sound © Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Family background
His grandmother, Margaret Clarke had been a single parent in Unst, Shetland. She had kept her son, William born in 1897 rather than have him adopted (as was more common at the time). Her family were a fisher family in Balta Sound. They had decided to go to Liverpool in the 1840s. There are records of a poor herring fishery during the 1830s- see below. The family went back to Shetland on occasion for the fishing. In Liverpool there was a conclave of Scottish families including the Crawfords, Youngs, Clarke and Mackinnons. William left school at the age of 14 and entered a very unstable job market in Liverpool during the war years and into the 1920s. There were no apprenticeships. He went to a private college to learn bookkeeping in the early 1920s but this did not make him any more employable. At one point he had to work for over a year with no pay in an internship situation, which was a struggle for him.

Alan was born in 1931 after his sister in 1929. Alan achieved a scholarship to the fee-paying Wallasey Grammar School. It was while he was still at school that he worked as a paper boy for Arthur Halliwell. His father felt very strongly that it was important for Alan to stay on at school. School was seen was a way to a better standard of living including a job with a pension. Alan did stay on but he felt very isolated as his family did not have the money for extras. He achieved his school certificate and then his higher school certificate. The children got Christmas presents from Liverpool Council. Alan and his sister were given holidays to West Kirby (Wirral Peninsula) and a place in Shropshire near Oswestry.


Albert Docks photograph by Christopher Kern Licensed Creative Commons

His first job after leaving school was a temporary job as a bus conductor in Wallasey. He remembers working on the 181 Bus and earned £8 a week plus overtime. He joined the RAF as his National Service and was stationed at RAF West Drayton. he earned 4 /- a day during his service. He wanted to join the Civil Service after he finished his National Service so he took the Civil Service Exam while still in the RAF. He passed the exam and then applied to join the Customs and Excise as he left. While he was waiting for an appointment he returned to work as a bus conductor. He eventually got his appointment and left his job on the buses 30th December 1951 starting his Civil Service job on 31st December 1951 at Liverpool Docks for Customs and Excise. The offices were all over the docks (probably greater than 100 of them). Each office had about 6 people in each office. Every cargo coming into the dock was checked.

Winch at Albert Dock Liverpool photograph by Christopher Kern Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

Winch at Albert Dock Liverpool by Christopher Kern- License Creative Commons

Customs and Excise work
When a ship came in it reported itself within 24 hours. Ships agents came to clear the cargo. Casks of rum for example were all individually tested for their alcohol content. An entry was made describing the cargo and Customs and excise checked each entry. The customs duty could be from 0-20% + purchase tax (the forerunner of VAT).

Alcohol was kept in bonded warehouses. The duty was paid when the alcohol left the warehouse. When it was in the warehouse it was under “crown lock”. There were two locks on the door. The distillers had one lock and key and Customs and Excise had the other lock and key.

In those days the cases were loose and there was a lot of pilferage by anyone who might come into contact with the cargo at any stage in its journey. It took hundreds of dockers to offload a ship, maybe even two weeks. The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board had a list of dock labourers who were hired by the various shipping companies. Bananas required specialist storage and accurate arrival times. During the 1950s the first banana boat came from the Caribbean for Geest. It was unfortunately held up by a dockers strike so they had to dump their cargo in the sea. After that they took their cargo to Swansea instead and never went back. 

Alan worked for Customs and Excise for the next 40 years. He stayed at Liverpool until 1955, moving to Brora (Chydelish) near Dormoch next. There is a distillery there. He was the only C&E officer there. The man in charge died suddenly so he went up there. He remained an apprentice of C&E for seven years moving from place to place. This included Orkney, Dover, London, Fraserburgh and the Western Isles to gain experience of warehouses, airports, land boundaries, distilleries, breweries, sugar beet, probate, purchase tax (not VAT) and receiver of wrecks. The last job was a really interesting one to do though it could be dangerous too. The job of the Receiver of the Wrecks was to protect any wreck against plunder before it could be offloaded. As the film Whisky Galore retells this could be easier said than done if the wreck was in an isolated spot.

Just before Alan arrived for a Wick posting the Norwegian ship, the Doverfell was wrecked in a bad storm and the whole ship was plundered for tobacco, food, clothing, radios and other personal items the crew had to leave when they abandoned the ship. The Norwegian Government send a letter of complaint to the British Government. The Receiver of Wreck has the right to shoot to kill and can command soldiers to protect a wreck. he had more legal power than the Chief Constable.  After a ship was wrecked he would arrive in the area to secure the wreck. He may have to search premises of anyone suspected of being in possession of undeclared cargo from a wreck. if this happened Alan went to the area with the Chief Constable. The latter explained to the householder the legal situation. Alan had a writ of assistance (a legal document). He then went into the house. A writ is a general search warrant to allow Customs and Excise to search any premises for stolen goods. It does not expire.

In 1967 he left for Mombasa, East Africa where his job was to train people in Customs and Excise. He also worked in Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Botswana. Hsi family came with him to Mombasa. Once they returned to the UK they settled in Elgin. His wife’s family were from Brora.  He worked in distillieries around Elgin including Burgie and Glen Moray. Finally he worked with VAT from a High Street Office in Elgin.  

Memory contributed by Alan Clarke, Elgin

Additional information
In the Highlands there was a failure of the Herring fishery over several years running up to 1840. this could explain why Alan’s Grandmother and family moved down to Liverpool to find work.

The seven schools of Wallasey including a picture of Alan’s school

Wallasey buses from 1950s era still operating. Flickr seems to be a rich source of bus images from this era.

Bonded warehouses- an example was Albert Dock warehouses

Trinity Mirror Slideshow of Liverpool Dock ImagesLiverpool Docks– a slideshow of numerous images of Liverpool docks over the last century. There are many people from the 1950s and 60s including a group of dock workers waiting to be selected for work loading and unloading ships. There is another interesting site about the Waterguard (a division of Customs and Excise). There are numerous pictures of the Customs and Excise buildings over the centuries.

Receiver of Wreck– Here is what this job entails.

Alan enjoys phtotgrapher and was a member of Elgin Camera Club for a number of years.

Chemist Shop assistant at McConachie of Keith by George Watt

The location of Kate and Francis McConachie's Chemist shop in Keith

The location of Kate and Francis McConachie’s Chemist shop in Keith

His sister worked at the chemist and when his sister left then George got her job. She worked for them for five years until 1942 when she left as George started there at the age of 14. George earned 14 /- a week or 4d. an hour. The shop was run by two old maids called Kate and Francis McConachie. Kate in particular was well thought of in Keith. It was a lovely shop to look at with many coloured glass bottles filled with potions and powders. Green glass bottles were reserved by poisonous substances such as Lysol and acids. Prescriptions were written by the doctor and the chemists were paid to make them up.
Tablets were made in the back of the shop using powders that were put into trays which were then rolled up to compress them. Hair lotions were also made up in the back room. They contained oils. Ingredients were crushed in a mortar and pestle. The shop also made face and hand creams.

George also worked as a delivery boy on a bike. He was called up for National Service in the RAF from 1946-1948, where he was based at Boyndie Airfieldnear Banff.

Memory contributed by George Watt of Aberlour

Additional Information

Related memory on this website
Margaret Lloyd was related to Kate and Franis through her mother. They were her Great Aunts. She spoke about them when she was interviewed for this project in April 2014.
Read it here.

Link to more information about the McConachie family in Keith.

Libindx had information about Kate- born in 1894 and died in 1977 aged 84. Her occupation is a pharmacist. Search Libindx under a people search or surname explorer.
Her sister, Francis was born in 1894 and died in 1975 at the age of 81. No profession is given for her. As they were born in the same year they could be twins.

More information about tablets are made from a powder and a dye.

The History of Chemist Shops- Science museum

Image of Chemist Shop bottles from the 1940s in New Orleans

Images of poison bottles from the Operating Museum collection

James McDonald’s job as a grocery assistant in Dufftown

James’ first job was as a message boy for G.R. Wild Goose in Dufftown in 1940.  He was 14 years old. He served his time for five years. In 1944 when he turned 18 he was called up. He volunteered for the airforce. At this time his Boss had died (the grocer) so the services were cancelled until a replacement could be found for the shop. This took three months. In the end no replacement could be found so the shop closed. James didn’t go in the RAF as it was too late.