Here is a link to an extensive memory about farming at Bomakelloch Farm, Drummuir.

Life on Bomakelloch farm from 1930s to 1950s by Jean Mark>>>>>>

Jean talks about making crowdie, the employment of POWs from the nearby camp, lambing time, rationing and general life on a farm in the North-east of Scotland.

Working on the family farm by William Stewart Stronach

Maisley Farm Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Geolocation

Maisley Farm >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

William started working for the family business, Maisley farm nr. Keith at the age of 14  when he left school in 1956. He had been helping since he was a young boy, picking tatties and loading the carts. His grandfather had moved to the farm in 1926. When he died his Mother and Father moved to the farm. The farm had a “chaumer” up a backstair from the kitchen. Stewart slept there on a “caff” bed. His bed had a wooden frame around the edge and inside was placed a canvas-covered mattress filled with the softer outer husks of the oat. When freshly filled it stood at least a foot above the bed frame slowly being compress over time as it was slept on. Sometimes a “caff” bed would be taken out to the stable so that his father could sleep on it if one of his horses was about to give birth to its foal. The Farm’s Clydesdale Horses were  more valuable than the cows and also more becoming stressed in labour.  

His Mother would cook soups for dinnertime at midday e.g. broth or tattie served with oatcakes (called “breed” in his family). As the farm did not grow wheat they bought in bread from a Baker’s Van which travelled the area often bartering bread for eggs.

For supper they ate breed, cheese, bread, syrup, boiled beef and chicken. Another meal was “skirlie” served with home-made oatcakes. This is made with oatmeal and onions (see recipe below). The farm had hens, sheep (lambs were sold), cows for milk/crowdie cheese and calves (which were sold on for fattening). Sometimes they ate pheasant which his father would shoot when they came down for the winter. There was no fridge and he remembers the hooks in the ceiling for hanging meat, though his family did not do this.

Crooks Mill source geolocation by Anne Burgess Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Crooks Mill near Keith

Crooksmill Pond The Mill pond and Crooksmill Burn north of Keith source: Geolocation on Share alike licence by Andrew Wood

Crooksmill Mill pond and Crooksmill Burn north of Keith

Farm work

In winter work including pulling turnips putting them into carts (“cairting”). In spring the crops were put into the ground. Stewart remembers the horses ploughing the fields when he was a young boy (in the 1940s) but they were soon replaced by the tractors. The farm grew thinning turnips sketch based on Stewart's descriptionoats and barley. The oats were sent to the nearby Crooks Mill,, just outside Keith. The barley was sent to the grain merchants. Once the turnips were “breering” i.e. their shoots were above the ground then Stewart went along with his hoe and pushed them over. This leaves a single shoot and about a 7″ gap between that turnip shoot and the next turnip shoot. 

Like many farms in the area Maisley Farm worked on a seven year crop rotation based around seven fields.

Years 1-3 grass
Year 4-5 oats and barley
Year 6 turnips
Year 7 oats undersown with grass. The oats were harvested above the grass layer leaving the grass and oat stubble. Then the rotation started again the following year.
Events were marked locally by when a field had a particular crop in it. No sprays were used and very little fertiliser. Manure was the main feeder for the soil.

Memory contributed by Stewart Stronach at the Keith County Show 2013 (President of the Show)

Additional Information

Other current interests- The Scottish Simmental Club and President of the Keith County Show 2013

There is a set of images of Crooks Mill, on the Scotlands Places website.

  • caff” beds– a definition of caff and links to some not always complimentary descriptions of sleeping on a  caff bed. The outer casings of the oat is also part of the group name chaff which also refers to rice, barley and wheat casings. Other definitions of caff-bed

A recipe for “Breed”, a north-east word for oatcakes

“Skirlie”- Stewart’s method of cooking involves putting a bit of fat in a pan, adding chopped onions and then browning them. Next add a handful of coarse oatmeal and stir. The oatmeal cooks in its own steam. You can add a few drops of water to it if the skirlie starts to stick to the pan.

Lena’s farming work on the Braes of Glenlivet in the 1920s and 30s

Lena being interviewed for the project by Claire GriffithsLena’s first job was working on the family farm Belnoe Farm in the Braes on Glenlivet, Ballindalloch. She was born in 1917 and lived on the farm through the 1920s and 30s. One of her jobs was to take the cows to the well. A bucket had to be lowered down the well to collect the water the cows to drink.

North slopes of Tom Trumper and Braes of Glenlivet back-dropThere was no running water on the farm when she was little so that was the source of water for everyone on the farm. Eventually the farm got a tap and an enamel sink in the kitchen which made life much easier. Each Saturday water was heated up and a tin bath was brought out and placed in front of the fire so everyone could have a bath.

Getting supplies
The nearest village was Auchnarrow where there was a shop. You could also to Knockando where there was a butcher’s shop. A pony and trap came around the farms with groceries including lentils and items the farm didn’t grow. Generally the farm was more or less self-sufficient. They grew corn, turnip (neeps), kale, carrots, onions, leeks and hay for bedding and fodder. Most farms got someone in if they wanted to kill an animal for meat. The animal was usually a sheep. The sheep carcass was hung outside on the farm until it was ready to be eaten. Everyone had a pig that was killed once a year. It was put in preserving stuff and hung in one of the farm’s barns for storage.

kaleLena’s favourite soup was Kale soup. Other soups made on the farm were broth, lentil, potato often using stock from boiling a sheep’s head.  The Sheep’s head was scraped first and then put in a stock pan and covered in water. To the stock was added lentils, peas and other vegetables. The stock was full of flavour and made the soup taste delicious.

Other links
Recipe for kale soup
Recipe for Sheep’s head soup and forcemeat  The latter uses the brain and the tongue so there is no waste!
Local photos of the Braes of Glenlivet
Lena's moment of fame smiling for Northern Scot photographer, Eric McCormackPhotos of Lena at the Then and Now Event at Cluny Primary School where she was photographed for a Northern Scot feature on the event.

Lena and Marion Yool, a WRVS volunteer talking at Cluny Primary Then and Now Event

Farm Labouring work by Alexander Cruickshank

Alexander’s father worked in Sunker Mains and he got his son a job at Meft Farm, part of the Innes Estate near Urquhart in Moray. He started work at the age of 14 after asking for leave from the rector of Forres Academy. He was supposed to carry on his schooling by attending evening class but he couldn’t due to the demands of the farm work. He had one day off once a fortnight and no holidays. He worked on a six month contract, no sick pay and £12 for 6 months work. He was paid 10 shillings a month on which he paid no tax. He didn’t earn enough to pay any tax. But he did pay 2s. and 6d., which was a private sick benefit insurance should he be off work for any reason.

Work Life
My six month contract started in the springtime. My jobs included hand ploughing, threshing, bailing and making haystacks. The hay was stored in the field or in farm buildings. During the war there was no hay storage at the farm due to bomb threats.

Next Job
At the end of the summer the contract ended as there was no work in wintertime.  I moved to a second farm at Caliver Hill, Forres, where I worked until the following May. My third farm was Grange Hall farm near Forres

Before I started working on the farm I got an absess on my leg which needed to be fixed by a doctor.  The doctor gave me a bill which had to be paid to cover his treatment including stitches.

Farming work on an old jousting ground by Mac James

After three years of Latin and French at Forres Academy I decided to leave school. My first job was at Marcassie Farm, Rafford. Marcassie are flat lands below Blervie Castle. Marcassie means tilting ground and Mac heard that the site was where the knights from the nearby castle jousted.

“Marcassie. From the Gaelic Marc, a horse, and A is, a covert, a hill, or stronghold. A tilting field. ”  source:  

Interesting Discovery
In 1940 I was ploughing new soil and I found a axe. I took the axe to the Falconer’s museum . It was sent to Robert Gordon College in Aberdeen where it was identified as a medieval woodman’s axe.

Work Life
Mac’s ploughing work was for the war effort. He had to plant Rye for Rye bread. The land was not suitable for barley or wheat. The top soil was very good with a sandy sub-soil which meant the soil was not waterlogged as it did not hold the rainwater.

War work
He was in a protected occupation as a farm worker so he was not called up however he had join the Home Guard. He felt less affected by rationing as the farm had its own milk, eggs, butter, pigs, chicken, beef cattle etc….

Follow-up on the axe discovery (Feb 10th)
Liz Trevithick at the Falconer’s museum has just found Mac’s axe and it was dated c. 1550. Mac will now be given the chance to see it again after 71 years after handing it to the museum for identification.

Other links
Marcassie Farm website