Lab Assistant at Thomson Cod Liver Oil Factory by Jean MacPherson

Thomson's cod liver oil cream advert from the Northern Scot Christmas Post 1905Jean started work for Thomson Cod Liver Oil factory in 1942 at the age of 15. She went on to work for the Thomson family for the next thirty years. At the time she joined George Thomson worked for the firm. Her normal working day began at 9 a.m. and ended at 5.30 p.m. She was given an hour off for lunch from 1 – 2 p.m.  Her starting wage was £1 a week.

The cod liver oil was stored in metal barrels and decanted into glass bottles and latterly plastic ones during the time she worked for the firm. There was a plain and an iodised version of the oil for chesty people. They also made and sold capsules flavoured with blackcurrant.

Her journey to and from her home in Bishopmill could be very difficult. During the period of WW2 her walks home at night were very dark. This was due the lack of street lighting i.e. the blackouts. There also very bad winters with heavy snowfalls throughout the 1940s. Jean had to wade through the snow in her Wellington boots.

One summer as Jean turned 18 in April 1960, the employees were taken a work’s holiday. Jean had to obtain her first passport. In two separate groups of eight (so the factory could remain open) they travelled down to London by train and stayed at the Ambassador Hotel. During the first week of their holiday they went to see a variety of the city’s tourist attractions including Madame Tussauds and the Lyons Tea Rooms. The following week Jean’s group travelled on to Paris, managing to catch the last train from Calais before the rail workers went on strike. They were not allowed to take anymore than £15 out of the country. They were issued with ration books which were handed to the hotel. Jean remembers having a lovely room in Paris where she could smell the bakery.

They visited a number of famous Parisian landmarks including the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles. At the Louvre they saw the painting of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo de Vinci.

Memory contributed by Jean McPherson at the Messages and Memories Event at Elgin Library

Additional Information
Grace's guide link

Lyons Coffee Shop information on a history of shops website


Book about Wireless Station wavelenghts written by R. Thomson (Horace’s Father?) in the 1920s.

An example of one of the porcelain cod liver oil spoons produced and sold by Thompsons.


Rabbit Catcher’s daughter by Hettie Milne neé Coutts

Hettie’s memories of life at Burghead School during WW2 >>>>>

Burghead 48 King Street Hettie Milne

48 King Street Burghead

Hettie was born in Burghead, Moray at 48 King Street in 1932 and she is therefore proud to be known as a “brocher”. Her mother came from Glenlivet and her Father, James “Jimmy” from Aberdeenshire. His family lived on a small holding in Aberdeenshire. He was the eldest son born in 1907 and he had to leave school at the age of 14 to work on the family farm. There were no tractors and part of Jimmy’s job was to drove cattle. Around 1920 they decided to move to Cullerne Farm, a new bigger farm located between Kinloss and Findhorn. So it was that one day his mother, younger brothers, sisters, 2 cows, a few sheep, chickens, Granny Jeannie Coutts on the cart and all their worldly goods set off. They were led by Jimmy as they started on their journey via Rhynie over the Cabrach, down Rothes Glen and onto Findhorn.

Burghead 69a Dunbar Street Hettie Milne

69 Dunbar Street

By the time that Hettie was born in 1932 her father had left Cullerne farm (at the age of 21) and moved to the nearby fishing settlement of Burghead.  One of her earliest memories is of a small shop in Findhorn. They lived at the top of town at 69a Dunbar Street. Prior to this they lived in 48 King Street. Her first job was “tattie” picking. During September/October the schools closed for what was known as the Tattie holidays (they still do). This break coincided with the readiness of the potato harvest. Hettie along with other local children, (usually aged 12 and over)  waited by the school at Burghead for a tractor and bogie to come and pick them up to start work at 7.30 a.m. each day. They started work at 8 a.m.  with short breaks until 5 at night. The tatties were collected in galvanized buckets and then poured into a wire basket. A young lad held the reins of the horse as older men tipped the basket contents into the cart. Each of the children had brought their own “piece” (snack) or lunch with them. This could be two slices of bread with corned beef or dry sandwiches with margarine and jam.   Occasionally they hunted the hedgerows for brambles sometimes taking them home at the end of the day. Some farms had apple orchards they could pick apples from.  They took or were given cold drinks. Flasks were too expensive and too easily broken.The money made from tattie picking was used to buy them a new winter coat and shoes. Any left over could be used for a bar of chocolate.

When Hettie left school she went to work for the Forestry Commission at Newton Nurseries from 1946-1951 from the age of 14 to 19 years. Her job involved replanting forests in Culbin Sands, Clashindarroch and Roseisle. She was also involved in reseeding young trees. At Heldon Hill Hettie cleared the lower branches from the trees so they could be used for telegraph poles.

Wester Alves farm  © Copyright Steven Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Wester Alves farm © Copyright Steven Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In 1951 she went to work for Miss Grant, a lady farmer at Wester Alves farm. Cattlemen brought the milk into the dairy and left it to stand. The butter and cream comes to the top. It is then put into a milk churn and the handles are turned until a flopping sound is created when the butter has formed. The butter is weighed out into the right size. Miss Grant took the butter into town (Elgin) to give to her friends. Eventually Miss Grant was taken ill. Her brother-in-law Sir Alexander Murray offered her job in London. as did his daughter, Mrs Robinson in Edinburgh. Hettie decided to say “No” to both and to go back to her Forestry Commission work.

Rabbits_on_ a_fence_source: Hettie Milne

Typical rabbit catch for Jimmy Coutts, Rabbit Catcher, Burghead. Photo Source: Hettie Milne neé Coutts

Rabbit catching
Hettie’s father, Jimmy Milne was a Rabbit catcher. This was a reserved occupation during WW2 as due to shortages of meat and therefore rationing rabbit had become one of the main replacements for the UK population. The shortages were due to the torpedoing of merchant shipping by U-boats. This led to a national shortage of a variety of foodstuffs including corn, wheat, sugar and meat. Jimmy MilneWild rabbits were prolific during this period and farmers were more than happy for Hettie’s Father to catch rabbits on their land. He paid the farmers for using their land. Country folk have always eaten rabbit, hare, pheasant and duck. Each evening he set his traps along the runs, which splayed out naturally from the rabbits’ warrens. The rabbits left a groove where their runs were. Sometimes Hettie would help her Father set the traps using a paraffin lamp to light their way. Apart from using snares he also held a 2.2 gun licence. Jimmy also kept ferrets to flush out the rabbits when the ground was too hard to set snares. He could tell when the rabbits were in their warrens as there was fresh sand outside their holes. Hettie would help her father set the traps by twising the wire and going out to collect the rabbits. He came home with a rattling car and a basket of traps to repair. Her Mother, Christina also helped by winding up a snare wire with a “thraw” hook. James put his rabbits into crates and then sent his rabbits via train down to butchers’ shops in England.

Hettie’s Mother, Christina worked at Gordonstoun when her children were older. It was hard work due to the nature of the stone floors. She also cleaned for a teacher’s wife who had a house on the bus route.

The following morning at about half past four he set off to collect the rabbits from his snares before the local wildlife had a chance to help themselves first.

In the summertime the family went to Glenlivet where her Mother was from. Christina and James had married at Achbreck Church, Glenlivet on 24 December 1931. To get there they went on the bus to Elgin, then train to Dufftown, bus to Tomintoul and then got off at Tomnavoulin. There were no street signs or road signs to take them there. You just had to know the way. The signage had been removed for the duration of WW2 in case of german invasion. Hettie’s Father continued to catch rabbits throughout their Glenlivet trips, taking his crates of rabbits to Dufftown and Glenlivet stations for transport south. In addition to sending his catch south he also supplied local butchers as well. There were poachers operating in the area as well though they had to try to sell their catch door to door.

Memory contributed by Hettie Milne from Elgin

Additional information

Childhood memories of Burghead by Hettie Milne nee Coutts by Hettie Milne

Hettie’s brother was Country singer Frankie Coutts. He had formed a duo with Willie Sutherland in the 1960s and 70s. He was well-known in Moray.

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.

Blackhillock farm work near Deskford by Annabel Ure

Annable went to work for the family business of farming at ther father’s farm of Blackhillock. She left school at the age of 14 in 1943 and went to work full-time though she had been helping out for years before this when not at school. Her Father and brothers were still at home as farming was a reserved occupation during WW2. The An example of a Clydesdale Horse. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported grew oats,barley, carrots, turnips, leeks and tatties but not wheat as the soil was too wet. Annabel learnt to drive a tractor before learning to drive a car. The farm used Clydesdale horses for ploughing- Charlie the horse and Pirie the Mare. At lunchtime soups would be made for workmen e.g. broth, tattie and pea.The farm made their own cheese in a cheese press, which was kept outside. It was a form of Crowdie. It took a week to ten days to make the cheese from cows’ milk rennet. It was a hard life working from daylight to dark.

Her sister was nine years older than her. She went on to Buckie High School then on to a Nursing career at St. Martin Hospital, Glasgow as a midwife. Her twin brothers worked in Engineering (Ian) and on the farm then joinery (Alec). They went out to work and came home to the farm at night.

Annabel worked on the farm until her father gave it up. They had to move to an empty house nr. Lhanbryde called Greenside, Orton Road, Rothes. Her Father needed to rest and he took a powder three times a day to help him.

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.

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

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

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 at the fishing yard in Buckie by George Cormack

Interviewed: George Cormack     Interview by Cara Mackenzie, pupil at Burghead Primary School
Job title: Labourer
Location: Buckie
Place of work: fishing yard
Age: 16
Year: 1949
Why did you choose this job? All that was going at the time.
Your job: Weighed fish, boxed and ice them. Put on the train and sent to London (Billingsgate Market), Liverpool and Birmingham.
Day/s off: noon on Saturday and all day Sunday
Wage? Couple of pounds
Did you get to keep your earnings or did you have to hand it over to you mother /family? Hand it over to my mother
Start time: 8 am
Lunch time: Cycled home
Finished at: 5 pm
Did you in enjoy your work? Yes enjoyed the work

 Buckie shipyards © Copyright Alan Walker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Buckie shipyards In the distance and left of the centre of the photograph is Jones’ shipyard. © Copyright Alan Walker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

How do you think it was different to nowadays? Now fish yard nowadays
What equipment did you use then that we do not use now? Used a knife
How safe was it? Use your common sense
Did you get any training the job or complete a qualification? No training pick up as went along
What did you do in your time off? Had a boat, go fishing
How long did you stay in the job? Left the job 3 years later
Did you have any other interesting jobs in your life?
Have you had any exciting adventures in your life?
Went on to serve time a boat builder in Jones of Buckie. Left and went to merchant navy until retire at 62. George was a ship’s carpenter. 2 years on a Norwegian supply boat.

George was on the Veronica Viking and hit a swell outside Aberdeen, George fell and hit controls and broke his ribs and he retired after that.

George travelled all around the world on many boats.
George away for about 10 months at a time which meant he was not at home very often. Never stayed at home very long before he was away again.

George Cormack from Burghead was interviewed by Cara Mackenzie, pupil at Burghead Primary School

Additional information

Buckie and District Fishing Heritage CentreBuckie Heritage Centre has a range of online images and audio. Well worth a visit as well if you are in the area.

More information on the ship- Veronica Viking- now known as Northern Viking and part of the Trico Supply Company. Picture of Northern Viking.