Life as a Junior Reporter for the Northern Scot by Bruce Taylor

Piper Alpha Memorial Window  source: wikicommons

Piper Alpha Memorial Window at Ferryhill Church, Aberdeen Source: Wikicommons

Bruce enjoyed writing at school and generally enjoyed his English lessons. He left school in 1961 at the age of 15 and went to Websters College at the top of Batchen Lane in Elgin to study shorthand and typing. His first job was for the Northern Scot newspaper where he described his first duties as a “general dogsbody”. They included buying cigarettes for the Editor, covering events such as  Flower Shows etc.  He had to travel to local towns including Lossiemouth and Dufftown to look for stories. All the time he was looking for stories of general interest. He travelled by himself as there was no staff photographer at this time.

When he turned 22 he moved to the Press and Journal Newspaper. Someone came from the P&J to his house to offer him the job, which included an increase in wages. Bruce accepted the offer and his earnings rose from £16 a week to £25 per week (a 56% increase).

During his time at the paper the biggest story he covered was the Piper Alpha Disaster in July 1988.  Bruce was the first reporter to travel out to the rig site, the day after the accident. By that time the flames were out and all that was left was the smoking skeleton of the platform. Bruce wrote about his first impressions and his reports were run on other papers as well as his own.

Bruce thought the best part of the job was the contact with people and helping them to communicate an issue they were concerned with. This could be raising funds for someone who was ill or a local campaign against a new road or the closure of an institution. He also covered Moray Council meetings and was an advocate for those who would have had no voice. It gave him great satisfaction to see his own stories in the Press and also when some stories were taken up by the National Press.

Additional Information

British Newspaper ArchiveThe Press and Journal has 13,234 back issues lodged with the British Newspaper Archive holds a number of Press and Journal newspapers in a digitised form. The BNA website

New Scottish online resource related to the Piper Alpha Disaster. The resource is part of the Glow Intranet community.
 Piper Alpha Disaster – Education Scotland website with a link to the glow-based resource.


Working in West End Guest House in Aberdeen by Helen Fitch

Helen’s parents owned a guest house in Aberdeen called West End Guest House on St. Swithins Street. Helen went to work for parents outside school hours, when she was 13 in 1960. She was allowed to keep the money she earned. When she was 15 she saw an advert in the Press and Journal newspaper advertising work at Leighton Hall in Montgomeryshire. At that time a Canadian Newspaper magnet owned the house. She went to work there with a friend for the holidays and they earned £5 a week. The following year in 1963 she went to work as a nanny and mother’s help in Dunkeld. It was very hard and involved washing, ironing and cooking. In 1964 she took her Highers. In the summer she worked as a porter at Oban Hotel. In September she started at Edinburgh University to study law. She soon decided it was not for her and left to become an uncertified primary school teacher in Fauldhouse, a very deprived area of Lark hall. She was given a class of 35 five year olds with no prior training.

Her next adventure was getting married and travelling to Northern Malawi with her husband who had been appointed the Regional Forest Officer.

Additional Information
Leighton House is a listed building in Wales. There are a number of images of the estate and other details around it on the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Images of Leighton Hall on RCAHMW.

History of the Leighton Village centred around the Leighton Estate.

Apprentice Mechanic at Burgess of Keith by Peter MacLeman

Peter’s family background was in farming but he wanted to train as a mechanic. He went to Inverness Technical College at the age of 16 in 1961 to train for a City and Guild course in Mechanics. When completed the qualification he went back to Keith to work for the garage, Burgess of Keith. The work involved dealing with farm machinery, tractors, vans and pickups. Generally he worked Monday to Friday but he could be called out at the weekend. The pay was £7 a week. He really enjoyed the work. next he worked for Barclays in Portsoy working with haulage vehicles and livestock carriers. Later on was a Glenfiddich Distillery as a fireman stoking fires under the stills. The work was very warm as you would imagine and very hard.

The shifts were as follows:–
Day shift     7.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.
Back shift   3.00 p.m.- 11 p.m.
Night shift 11 p.m. – 7.00 a.m.

The days would work as follows:-
7 days Day shift  then 3 days off
7 day Back shift then 3 days off
7 day Night shift and then 3 days off

The weekend had 12 hour shifts during the holidays. When the mechanic was suddenly taken ill Peter stood in for him and ended up staying in the new position for the next 14 years (the original mechanic retired). Later Peter went to work on the transport vehicles including HGVs. He took his licence to drive them.

While working at the distilleries in those days there were daily dramming sessions, usually three – morning, lunchtime and afternoon when the employees were served with a dram of clearic whisky. Clearic is the pure spirit whisky straight out of the still before being sent to storage barrels to mature.

Memory contributed by Peter MacLeman

Working as a hospital ward maid by Sandra Borthwick

My name is Sandra Borthwick and I was a ward maid in a Hospital. I started when I was 15 in 1961. I chose this job because I wanted to earn money. My job was to clean the ward, kitchen, toilets, the corridor and all areas.

I also had to make and serve tea, bread and jam to the patients in the morning and the afternoon. I only had 2 weeks off per year. My wage was £12.00 per week.

I gave some of my earnings to my mother and I kept some. I started my job at 8.00am and I finished at 8.00pm. I got 15 mins break in the morning and 30 mins at lunch and another 15 mins at night. I didn’t go home for lunch. I loved everything about my job. The things that are different to nowadays are that there were less form filling in, fewer health and safety rules and regulations and inspections.

My job was very safe. I got initial training. When I wasn’t working I was ether dancing, at the cinema, shopping for clothes or ice-skating. I only had 2 weeks off. My other jobs were working in a library, working at a grocers shop, nursing training, a window cleaner and I drove an ice-cream van.

Sandra was interviewed by a Burghead Primary P5/6 pupil as part of a Heritage Project based around fishing and the local community.

Anne McArthur’s work in accounts

Anne started her work as an accounting machine operator in Elgin when she was 15 in 1969 and stayed there for 5 whole years. She worked in an office and chose that job because it had a good employer. She was paid £30 a month and she had to pay digs and keep the rest. She got 34 days holiday and during her holidays and spare time she would go dancing.

She would start work at 9 o’clock and finished and 5 o’clock. Anne had two 15 minute breaks and she did not go home for lunch. She was asked to do key in information but one day the company changed to decimalisation which she had to do training for. Sometimes she would put cold tea in a bottle for whisky to see if people could tell the difference. She used a big machine to do her work and computers were used more manually. Anne enjoyed getting things right at work and the job was very safe.

Anne McArthur from Elgin was interviewed by Sam, a pupil from Burghead Primary School.

David Scott’s first job working for a New Zealand Shipping Yard

M. V. Otaio. New Zealand Shipping Company's cadet training ship, 13,314 tons. The ship was built in 1958. source wikicommons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 license

M. V. Otaio. New Zealand Shipping Company’s cadet training ship Source wikicommons

Interview by Cara Mackenzie, Burghead Primary Pupil
Interviewed: David Scott
Job title: Cadet
Location: New Zealand shipping yard company Place of work: Ship called Otaio
Age: 16     Year: 1960

Why did you choose this job: Everyone was going to sea
Your tasks: Navigation of the ship and responsible for running the ship
Days off or holidays: None everyday working, where and when required for 2 years

Wage: £12 a month
Did you keep your earnings: Sent home wages but kept some too 

Describe a typical day:
Start time: No set times 24 hours
Breaks for coffee or tea: When could
Lunch:  Lunch on boat

Sextant. compass and octant Source wikicommons

Sextant. compass and octant Source: wikicommons

What work did you have to do: Different duties on boat like navigation
Did you enjoy your job: Yes enjoyed job
Is it different to nowadays? You were on your own where nowadays the boats are ran from the harbour office
What equipment did you use: Sextant – Navigated with the stars and sun.  The angle between the horizon and the sun
How safe was it: Relatively safe compared to the fishing boats, due to size of the boats Did you get any training: 2nd mate certificate, 1st mate certificate and Master certificate.  Which means he could take charge of any boat
What did you do in your spare time: Most of the time in New Zealand, so went to coffee bars which closed at 6 ‘o’ clock and pubs
How long did you work for there: 17 years
Did you work more jobs: 1976 – 1977 cargo ships were finishing so went off shore with a supply company. Did this for 25 years then retired. Going through piers in Yarmouth was a horrendous job. Towed a rig through Panama Canal in 1986.  It was a Mexican rig. the biggest boat was the Oil Vessel which towed a rig from Trinidad to Alabama. It had a large anchor and handled vessels with  18,000 horse power.

David Scott from Findhorn was interviewed by Cara Mackenzie, a pupil at Burghead Primary School

Additional information
The two piers at Great Yarmouth- Google Maps satellite view

Mary Waugh’s first job working as a telephonist in Glasgow

An example of a telephone exchange from the 1950s

An example of a telephone exchange from the 1950s

Mary started work at the age of 14 in 1964. Her school had got her job for her. She doesn’t remember being asked what she wanted to do but she feels she could have chosen something else if she had wanted to. The Switchboard at Johnson Brothers in Glasgow was an old-fashioned one with sockets to plug cables into (see picture on the right). She was able to run up to four lines at a time. She worked there until 1969 when her daughter was born. Mary took a few years off and then went back to work as her daughter started nursery school. She was able to get a 9.00 a.m-1 p.m. shift which worked well with her family.

Corporation Public Baths Parkhead Glasgow-source- Geograph This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Corporation Public Baths Parkhead Glasgow-source- Geograph

The early years of her life had been spent in a tenement building in the Dennistoun area (Plant St) of Glasgow.  The family had two rooms. A kitchen and a living area. Both rooms had a bed recess with a double bed. Her parents slept in the one of the double bed sized recess and she slept in the other room. One toilet was shared by 3 flats and the building was very clean and tidy. Every week Mary went down to the Parkhead public baths with her parents so they could each have a bath. Each individual cubicle had its own bath in it. 

This memory was contributed by Mary Waugh from Keith

Additional Information

Parkhead History website

Working as a librarian by Myra Murray

Myra started working as a librarian for Elder Park Library in Glasgow when she left school

John Elder  © Copyright Leslie Barrie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

John Elder © Copyright Leslie Barrie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

at the age of 18. She chose that job because she enjoyed books and reading. She took librarian exams at the College of Commerce in Glasgow. She completed the training on a part-time day-release course.

The library was located on the corner of Elder Park and gifted to the town by Lord and Lady Elder. She earned £4 a week paid monthly. The library was arranged using the Dewey system. There were large hardwood shelves and a library for the blind containing Braille books. There was also a large reference section. The little museum attached to the library displayed items such as the last birch used as a public punishment. 

Templeton's Carpet Factory
Templeton’s Carpet Factory © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

She remembers the streets in Glasgow were named after places in the West Indies because of the links with sugar and the Tate and Lyle Sugar Company. One of the most interesting buildings in Glasgow was the Templeton Carpet Factory, which was built to match the Doge Palace in Venice.

Later on she joined the Civil Service as a temporary Clerical assistant working for te Ministry of Works completing order forms and filing them. She left the Civil Service in 1966.

Memory contributed by Myra Murray at the 2013 Maggie Fair, Garmouth

Additional information

Background behind the Dewey System. Slideshows showing the history of the system and how it works.

Working as a hospital help in Carshalton by Mary Stanning

Having finished school in the summer of 1968 Mary stayed with a school friend and work as a helper at Carshalton Hospital. Her work day started at 8.30 a.m. with scrubbing floors, washing cups, helping the nurses to wash patients and turning them in their beds. the beds were taken out onto the veranda. They also talked to the patients. On the ward Mary worked on were women and children. Some had experiences strokes and could not walk about. It was important for these patients in particular that they were regularly turned in their bed to avoid bed sores. Sometimes Mary worked a morning shift and other times it was an afternoon shift.

After the experience of working at the hospital she decided to apply for teacher training in Lincoln. Mary felt the training had quite a political slant to it. Her teaching Practice was in a Lincolnshire rural school which had 1.5 teachers ie. one teacher was part-time and worked on a half timetable. When she started her training the fulltime teacher went on a course which left Mary with a qualified teacher with her in the small school half the time and by herself for the other half of the time. The school was typical of a small rural school of its time with large high windows in a single room. She was left with no guidance re: the lessons to teach/the curriculum so the class studied Maths, Reading and went on lots of walks. She continued the training course until Christmas and then decided to leave.

Miss Sprules's Secretarial Academy 1933 - 1994

Miss Sprules’s Secretarial Academy 1933 – 1994

Mary arranged to do a bilingual (French/English) secretarial course from September 1969- Easter 1970 and before that she au-paired in Paris from March to September, staying with a Doctor’s wife. The Miss Sprules Secretarial Course  was based in Winchester (later bought out by St.James). The other teacher was called Miss Glyka. Mary learnt typing, shorthand and bookkeeping with the idea of going to work in London as a Personal Assistant.  After completing the course Mary had to go home as she needed to have her wisdom teeth out. She stayed at home and worked as a personal assistant for a buyer at Kenwood Mixers in Havant.  It was interesting to see how an office worked.

Sailing life
Mary’s family were deeply involved with sailing. Her Father was in the Navy and the parents were involved with the organisation of sailing camps. In the summer of 1970 they hosted the International Children’s Regatta on the Solent. Mary’s parents’ garden was filled of tents. They made numerous blackcurrant pies. Teams came from 12-14 countries. It was held every year in a different country by the International Optomist Dinghy Association. It was set up in the 1960s and the UK organisation based itslef on that at a chub level. They had a stand at the boat show. Mary’s family got involved in 1962.

In September 1970 aged 20, she started her new job as Personal Assistant to the Sailing Secretary of the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and the International Racing Union (IRYU). Mary had been sailing since she was a young child so she understood the sailing world. Her Boss was in charge of the organisation of the RYA stand on the Boat Show.
Although she liked her job Mary decided she wanted to do more sailing so she returned to temping in London fitting her work life around her sailing activities. One was working as P.A. for the Financial Director of an American Company (August 1972-Easter 1973) which dealt with bathroom and kitchen equipment. He had a big budget and she got it sorted out for him. She had her 22nd birthday in Vienna.

Mary also worked for the International Atomic Energy Association typing up official information in English. All the information had to be produced in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese. Her last job before joining the Navy was for the Treasury in London.

Memory contributed by Mary Stanning from Lossiemouth

Additional Information
Information on Lincoln Teacher Training College

More information about Miss Sprules Secretarial Course in Winchester . It includes a photo and memory sharing about the teachers, Miss Sprule and Miss Glyka. Numerous people (some famous) cite this school on their Linked In profiles as part of their education.

International Optomist Dinghy Assocation
An article about the change from multi-design to one design boats to cut costs for young sailors.

Heather_Stanning Description Helen Glover and Heather Stanning licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.Mary and Tim‘s children have followed the family tradition of joining the Armed Forces. Martin is serving with the Black Watch and Alistair is a Navy Doctor. Their daughter, Heather is currently serving as an Army Officer and in 2012 achieved a rowing gold for the UK team with her rowing partner, Helen Glover. She was awarded an MBE in the New Years Honours List.

Working for Cameron Nicolson boat builders by Tim Stanning

Marlow Bridge Copyright 2004 Christopher J. Wood. GNU Free Documentation License,

Marlow Bridge Copyright 2004 Christopher J. Wood. GNU Free Documentation License,

Following in the family tradition set by his Uncle and Father Tim left school in 1961 with a long-term plan to join the Royal Navy. There were a variety of options available to him including seaman, submariner or aviator and he chose the engineering route. On leaving school he got a job with Cameron Nicholson boat builders in Southampton. He arrived in Feb/March of 1962. The company built wooden yachts. At the age of 18 he moved to JG Meakes of Marlow on the Thames fitting out a pair of 42′ steel hulled twin-engine motor boats. They normally made sleek launchers. Tim enjoyed his time on the boat, living on board and being paid £1 a day. His only costs were buying food. The boats were near a bridge in Marlowe. While living in Marlow he got to know local people. He had learnt camponology at school and used this skill playing the local church bells at Marlowe Parish Church.

Tim completed an engine makers course with the makers in Stroud and also did a boat radio course.  In April/May 1962 he took the boat down the Thames and around to Southampton with his friend. The boat owner lived in London. During the summer of 1962 the boat was moored in a berth in Cowes (Isle of Wight). Tim had a flat in Cowes. with the boat he was looking after either at Southampton or a Cowes. When he was given time off he would occasionally go back home to Lymington, West Solent. He also went as crew on other boats. Still earning £1 a day the boat owner provided food as well during the whole summer.

At the end of August 1962 Tim had a three day interview with the Royal Navy which tested his leadership skills and problem solving ability in the gym. He joined for a full career commission with a mininum service of five years.  During a long Naval career where Tim rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander he worked in Yeovil, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Hampshire before moving to Lossiemouth.

Memory contributed by Tim Stanning from Lossiemouth

Additional Information

Memories of working at JG Meakes of Marlow- There are a number of blogs on the internet which feature memories of people who worked for JG Meakes of Marlow.

JG Meakes took over  “Appleyard and Lincoln of Ely in approx 1972 and continued building until approx 1975.”

River and Rowing Museum image collection- a set of images including JG Meakes Ltd

Heather_Stanning Description Helen Glover and Heather Stanning licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.Mary and Tim’s children have followed the family tradition of joining the Armed Forces. Martin is serving with the Black Watch and Alistair is a Navy Doctor. Their daughter, Heather is currently serving as an Army Officer and in 2012 achieved a rowing gold for the UK team with her rowing partner, Helen Glover. She was awarded an MBE in the New Years Honours List.