Milk boy for Bishopmill Dairy by Bill Forsyth

Bill started work in 1937 at the age of 9/10. His Father had heard about the job in his job at the Tile Works. Joseph Farquhar owned Bishopmill Farm, which was the left hand side of the road on the way out of Bishopmill towards Lossiemouth. It was just past the old Moray Poor House site. He worked for the farm’s dairy before school every day of the week. He arrived about 7 a.m. and collected tin cans, which held about 1 pint of pasturised full cream milk. He could hook 5 cans on either side of his bike. He then set off to deliver milk to the local customers. The job carried on through the holidays as well. When the war started Joseph Farquhar’s son, also called Bill was called up. Bill was asked to help with the milk round. Joseph had two milk floats to deliver the milk to his Elgin customers.

Easterton farm Roseisle © Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Easterton Farm Roseisle Copyright Anne Burgess Creative Commons Licence

When Bill reached 13 he left school to work for the dairy full-time. He learnt how to control a horse and cart so he could then take one of the carts on local milk deliveries. Two large milk churns were placed in the back of his cart along with a one pint tin jug to dispense the milk from the large cans into whatever the customer had at hand for their milk delivery.The route he took was from Bishopmill along Lesmurdie Road, Kingmills, over the old Bridge to the Cathedral, up King Street, cut across Institution Road, round the Station Hotel and then back to the Dairy. The caretaker at the Cathedral always had two sandwiches ready made with fresh butter and rhubarb jam. One for Bill and one for the horse. No-one had fridges in those days so Bill went on his round every day. When he returned to the dairy he handed back the tin cans for cleaning and put the horse to pasture in the fields around the dairy. Then the cart needed to be tidied up. Next Bill went off to Easterton Farm on Covesea Road to collect the cans of milk for the following day. The milk was processed and pasturised at the dairy ready for the next day’s delivery. Each week Bill handed over his wage to his Mother and received spending money back.

Cattle were also kept on the farm. The dung heap was situated behind the Old Bishopmill School and the smell could be quite strong on some days.

Bill remembered the Old School at Bishopmill had traditional school desks with slates, ink pots and blackboards.

 Memory contributed by Bill Forsyth at the Messages and Memories Event at Elgin Library June 2014

Additional Information

Bishopmill History

nls map referencesLocal Maps of the area   Either choose Find by place which allows the user to select specific maps individually e.g. This 1938 (published 1946) map of Elgin shows all the detail of Bishopmill including old and new school, the old town centre roads before the bypass, the gas works etc…

There are various books which describe Bishopmill and its development including the schools. The History of the Local Area is written about in detail in the New Statistical Account of Scotland. Search by putting Bishopmill in the left hand search box or go to page 98 onwards in the Elgin section of the book.
Bishopmill Google booksMoray Poor House, Bishopmill  The Map of the Moray Poor House on this web page also shows the location of the local primary school on Balmoral Terrace and the farm fields around Bishopmill around 1905. To look at other old maps of the area go to the Useful Links/Scottish Maps page on this website and follow the NLS link.

List of Moray Combination Poorhouse residents in 1881


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.

Oat grains source wikicommons 606px-Haverkorrels_Avena_sativa
Oat grain with outer husks

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.

Chorister at Holy Trinity, Elgin by Grenville Johnston

Grenville and his twin sister

Grenville with his twin sister

Grenville’s first job was as a chorister at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Elgin when he was around the 6-7 years old (1951). He was paid as a choir member for weddings, earning 2 /- per wedding. In those days the choir filled both sides of the pew. His father had been a founding member of Johnston and Carmichael Accountancy firm and the family lived in Nairn. They moved to Maine Road, Elgin when Greville was very small.. The location is important in the next part of his working life as it was close to Bilbohall farm where Greville was sent tattie picking each summer from the age of 9-10. Greville’s father believed that idle hands needed to be kept out of trouble especially those of young boys on holiday. Another summer job was working with his friend, Graeme Riddoch (a fellow chorister) on the Rothiemay Estate killing vermin (crows, rats, mice and foxes) using a .22 rifle. Graeme was related to the Riddochs of Rothiemay. During the Christmas holidays Greville was found another holiday job with Gordon and McPhail in their cellars. The Christmas Trading Period was extremely busy for the firm and they took on extra staff to help. It was all hands on deck. Greville and his friend, Ian Urquhart were sent to work in the cellars, which run under the shop. When an order came in e.g. Martell Brandy the boys would know where everything was so they found the appropriate bottles quickly taking them to a central place where a cardboard carton were kept to gather the total order. The order was taken up the steps by the men though Greville remembers he never dropped a bottle in all the time he worked for Gordon and McPhail. He can also clearly remember how to make up the cardboard cartons. Easter holidays involved exam revision and so it was that Greville and his friends were kept gainfully employed until they left school.

Grenville left at the age of 17 1/2 to commence training as a chartered accountant. This began in 1963 as an apprentice General Accountant (GA) at Scott Moncrieff Thompson and Sheilds. He stayed until 1968 when he qualified as a chartered accountant. During this period he lived in digs in Edinburgh. Initially he was in “ghastly digs” but he soon moved to stay with Miss Dolly Mulholland of 5 Coltbridge Avenue. The Terraced house was situated in a little cul-de-sac near the Football stadium and Edinburgh Zoo. Dolly was a very good landlady. Grenville was fed well and she knew that there were two concerned parents at home. Soon after he moved there his parents came down to see him. It was obvious to them and to Grenville that Dolly really cared. Though unmarried she described her time during the Second World War as having a sailor in every port. She owned the house of which she was the landlady.

Each night as he came home from the office he had supper and then went up to his room to work for a couple of hours returning downstairs for a cup of tea and a bun then bed. There was no curfew as each of the tenants had a key to the front door. Although Grenville committed himself to work hard and pass his exams he was able to find time to enjoy himself e.g.playing hockey.

Having qualified as a chartered accountant in 1968 his father expected him to return home to Elgin to join the family business of WD Johnston & Carmichael. This he did not do choosing instead to move to Glasgow and the firm of Thomson McKlintock & Co. He remained there for two years from 1968-1970.  He did eventually move north in 1970 when WD Johnston and Carmichael had several branches in Alford, Banff, Elgin, Nairn, Maud, Keith and Turiff. In the 1970s the firm moved from the Union Buildings at 81 High Street to new offices on the upper floor of 164 High Street, opposite the playhouse. He continued to work in the family business as a partner, senior partner and consultant until 2005. This was the same year he was appointed Lord Lieutenent of Moray.

Memory contributed by Grenville Johnston from Elgin

Additional Information

Brief background information about Greville’s military career in the Terrotorial army

Lord Lieutenant of Moray  – a role Greville has held since 2005. It is an honorary position representing the Queen at a variety of local events and attending her when she does visit the county as she did in 2012. Delivering whisky to the Queen in her Jubilee year.

Other posts include Chairman of Caledonian Marine Assets Ltd

Ian Urquhart– is part of the Urquhart family which has been involved with Gordon and MacPhail from its early days. He retired in 2007.

Urquhart Dance at the Assembly Rooms

Urquhart Dance at the Assembly Rooms reproduced with kind permission of Greville

© Greville Johnston

Memories of Elgin
Greville grew up in Elgin during the 1950s and 60s. He remembers many of the  businesses which were a feature of a busy High Street and South Street area.
-The Palace Garage on South Street with its Rolls Royces.
Austins Tearooms were opposite the Picture House Bingo, also on South Street. The distinctive stained glass windows can still be seen on the corner of the building. The building is still in use for the Elgin Bridge Club with interior shots of the building on their website. 
– The Creamery at the junction of Thunderton Place and South Street. It eventually became the Tesco site with the multi-storey car park next to it on South Street.
Assembly Room Dances. It had a wooden sprung floor and was purpose-built for dancing. The Assembly Rooms were unfortunately demolished in 1987.
Elgin Drill Hall  Greville remembers being taken to the top room at the age of 5 or 6. His father, William Dewar Johnston was in the Territorial Army as was Grenville later in life.
– Moray and Nairn Courant Newspaper was run from a printing press on South Street by the Grant Family.
– The tenements of Harrow Inn Close were very scruffy. They were renovated in the 1970s.
– Smiths warehouse was a fabulous toy shop. George Alexander Smith became the Provost of Elgin (1964-1970).

Working as a farm servant at New Pitsligo by David “Mac” Morrison

David was named after his father, who was known as “Big Mac”. He was known as “Wee Mac”. He missed a year in school and went through a year late and as a result he came out a year later. Just escaped being called up. His Father was a doctor and had a busy GP practice at New Pitsligo (about 12 miles inland from Fraserburgh). It was very competitive before the NHS as each doctor charged the patients directly for their services. It was not unknown for doctors to pinch each others’ patients. As a result doctors rarely took a holiday or even an afternoon off just in case something came up. Once someone had been treated by a new doctor they might continue to go to them taking their family with them. His father was on duty 24-7. Mac remembers when he was off when he was ill with a double hernia and he recuperated in Nairn. If a practice was large enough it could afford an assistant and therefore an ability for the doctor to take some time off. Mac was very keen to go into medicine but his father was not due to a fear of the unknown. Mac was also keen on farming so he went for a job as a farm servant. farm servants worked on farms all over the country. He learnt how to use a plough with a couple of horses before leaving to attend agricultural college in Aberdeen. He completed a certificate course and then did a National Diploma in Agriculture. Then the job hunting started. His first job after college was as a arable manager on a mixed farm in Oyne. It was a large unit. He met a lady who got a job in East Anglia so Mac applied for a job in Norfolk. He was the manager of an arable unit with 1300 acres under plough, a dairy unit, sheep unit and beef unit. The farm produced barley, wheat, oats, sugar beet and root vegetables. There was a rotation of sprouts, cabbage and root vegetables.

The farm supplied stalls at Covent Garden which were open every day. They were sent new supplies every 2-3 days leaving very late at night. The stall holder was called Fred. A selection of the farm crop was sold this way. Wheat and barley was sold through an agricultural merchant. Beef and Sheep were sold through the local markets in Norfolk. There no farm shops at this time. Mac thought it was the best job he ever had. They had their own mechanic who maintained the rolling stock which included six tractors and two combines. The staff included ten farm labourers, a cow man, a sheep man and a beef man. The land was spread over two farms. One farm could be sown a fortnight earlier as they had different soils. One farm had light loam soil (at Walsingham) and the other was a clay soil. It was very labour intensive work at that time. While he was at this farm he got married and had a son.

Continue reading about Mac’s working life here including his family’s part in the start of Bernard Matthews business >>>>>>

Memory contributed by David “Mac” Morrison from Aberlour

Additional information

memory website- New Pitsligo over the yearsMemory website about New Pitsligo over the years.

The Electoral register for 1931 in New Pitsligo lists Mac as his full name David Robert Morrison and living at Denburn House. Dr Cameron moved to New Pitsligo in 1934. He retired 32 years later and is listed as living at Denburn House.

Biding in a chaumer while working as a farm labourer by Jimmy Green

Davidston Fields above Bridge of Davidston. The white house on the right is a new one built beside the old Mill of Davidston. In the distance is Bomakelloch Farm, which is in the next square.

Davidston Fields above Bridge of Davidston. The white house on the right is a new one built beside the old Mill of Davidston. In the distance is Bomakelloch Farm, which is in the next square. © Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

After the end of the Second World war many of the German POWs who had been interned in Moray POW camps decided to stay in Moray and not return to their homeland. Jimmy was recruited to work on the farms when the German farmworkers went back on family visits back to Germany. He started work in around 1948 when he turned 20. The farmer was called William Stewart and the farm was Bomakelloch Farm, Keith. During the week he lived on the farm in a room above the kitchen which was called a “chaumer“. Four people slept in the room. Two of the farmer’s sons, a german POW and Jimmy. It had a traditional small rectangular skylight with a single sheet of glass. There was separate stair up from the kitchen and the bedroom may have been an old maid’s room. There was also another old “chaumer” above the stable. There was a bath in the house but Jimmy went home to his parents’ house, Davidston House, a small farm 1/2 mile a way and had a bath there. He also took his washing for his mother to wash. Food was provided by the farm. Breakfast was usually porridge made with salt along with bread and butter. If you had brose you made that yourself. It is made in the bowl from oatmeal, hot water, salt and spice. For dinner there could be soup (broth, pea soup or tattie soup). Mince and tatties and on the same plate afterwards, a sweet such as semolina.The work days would vary with the season. In Spring the day would begin around 6 a.m. with breakfast at 6.30 p.m. By then the horse ploughs were being slowly replaced by tractors. The tractors were more efficient and quicker and it also meant that the farms could employ fewer men. The horses on this farm were very old. Jimmy did not work on his parents farm, Davidston House as he had four brothers and so he was not needed. He often went back to his parents house during the week to see them. He took his clothes home to be washed. He stayed on at this farm for the next eighteen years.

Jimmy’s work life continues as a mobile library van driver in Banffshire >>>>>>>>>>

Memory contributed by Jimmy Green in Keith

Additional Information

Keith Cricket Club- Jimmy has been involved with the club as player, umpire, coach and has even cut the grass on the wicket for the last sixty years. Here is a recent newspaper article from the Banffshire Herald. They have kindly given the project permission to publish it here- Jimmy Green’s  60 year involvement with Keith Cricket Club

More information about chaumers.
“The name depended on faur ye bade or fit size o a fairm ye were feed on. A chaumer wis a wee biggin or room, sometimes at the end o a steadin or next tae a wash hoose, or a room up abeen a stable or barn. A chaumer didna hae a fire, an the single lads wad hae been fed in the fairm kitchen bi the kitchie deem……..”  Follow the link above for an extensive description from the Elphinstone Institute at Aberdeen University.

More information on Davidston House, which has listed building status.

An article written by local pensioner, Violet Fraser about her time living at the Balnageith POW camp after the war when it was not longer is used for POWs. Commenmorative plaque at the site. More information about the site of the camp.

Horse Ploughing
Click here to see a Horse ploughing film on Scottish Screen onlineWatch a 1955 film of horse ploughing 

The film shows everyday life and work of a Scottish ploughman, shot at Smeaton Farm, Dalkeith.
It was made in 1955 and lasts 11 minutes.

Harry Garrick’s work as a farm servant at Kininvie, Maggieknockater

Kininvie Farm Entrance The farm of Kininvie on the road to Maggieknockater. Photo's author Andrew Wood License  Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic  Source Wikimedia Commons image Harry worked for his father on their own farm from the age of 12. The farm was called Kininvie nr. Maggieknockater. He started work in 1950. He was able to do everything on the farm including ploughing with two horses. He had to do milking in the Milking byre if his mother was not there. Farming work continued everyday so there were no holidays on the farm. He got a wage if his Father could afford it and it was something he needed. The working day began at 7 o’clock. His Mother brought them some tea to where they were working. Lunch was at 1 o’clock. When the weather was fine they worked on until the work was finished. Harry enjoyed working out in the open air and driving the tractor. Harry rarely did anything beyond work as he was so tired at the end of the working day.

He carried on working at the farm for the next fifty years.

Memory contributed by Harry Garrick from Dufftown 

Additional Information

Horse Ploughing
Click here to see a Horse ploughing film on Scottish Screen onlineWatch a 1955 film of horse ploughing 

The film shows everyday life and work of a Scottish ploughman, shot at Smeaton Farm, Dalkeith.
It was made in 1955 and lasts 11 minutes.

Delivering pails of milk in Edinvillie by Aileen Garrow

Aileen was born into a farming family in Edinvillie in 1932. They owned Bush Farm in Edinvillie. Aileen’s first job was delivering pails of milk to three cottages in Edinvillie. Each house had their own pail (2 large and one small). Her Father milked their two Black Irish Cows each morning to fill the pails. From the age of 8 or 9 Aileen carried the three pails with her on her way to the local primary school in Edinvillie. The three families (Hume, Ellice and Grays) lived in Milton of Edinvillie and everyone spoke Doric. Each day Aileen was paid 6d per pail for the milk. At the end of each schoolday she returned to pick up their clean empty milk pail ready for the next day’s milk. Other people had their own cow to provide their milk. Milk would vary in consistency such as when the cows went out to grass in the summer. Her Father grew different types of grass for the cows to eat. Once she was ill and unable to do her round and they gave her the money anyway. She thinks her Father took the milk. She felt very guilty because she hadn’t delivered it herself.

Milltown of Edinvillie Primary school   © Copyright Dave Fergusson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Source:

Milltown of Edinvillie Primary school © Copyright Dave Fergusson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

At that time in the 1940s Edinvillie Primary School had about 40 children. There had been 70 children in her Father’s time there. It closed in 2000 when there were only 9 pupils. It had a Big End and a Wee End for the younger children (4 1/2 upwards). Each day Aileen took a bottle of milk (usually a camp coffee bottle).  Many children took half full used bottles of whisky for their milk. This was placed on the windowsill, which could sometimes be in the full sun. The children also took a play piece to eat and nothing else for the day at school. It could be a hard boiled egg, a softie with butter and jam or an apple if it was the season. Aileen met an old school friend recently who said she used to covet Aileen’s regular hard boiled eggs (a benefit of living on a farm). At Bush Farm they also made their own butter and jam (only limited by the sugar which was on ration). During the winter months the children were provided with a soup dinner paid for by funds raised by the Soup Dinner Committee.They made money from whist drives and concerts. Local farmers donated vegetables including neeps and tatties. The money raised was used for the purchase of peas, beef and bread. It also paid for a cook and a set of little soup bowls. Aileen remembers eating lentil and bacon, broth, yellow split pea soup and tattie soup. Being further from the coast they didn’t have Cullen Skink (smoked haddock soup). The bread came from a bread van from Walkers of Aberlour. It arrived on Tuesday and Friday travelling round all the houses. Although many people often made their own bread they still bought softies, plain loaves, butteries, and queen cakes.

When she was 9 she had another job in the fields of the farm. She learnt how to build sheaves of oats and barley. The farm had a Clydesdale Horse and a 2 wheel wooden cart.  The sheaves were forked into the cart when Aileen stood. She had to place them head down to “heart it up first”. She created circles turning round and round the bottom of the cart in a spiral. The heart holds everything together and eventually everything came level inside the cart with Aileen climbing on top. At the farmyard everything was lifted off and formed into a stack. During the farming year there were (and still are in places) ploughing matches and stacks were exhibited.

Aileen stayed on at school into secondary at Aberlour and completed her Higher Leaving certificate. She was not very good at maths. Mr Miller was her Maths teacher. She sat the Lower Maths in secondary in Class 4.  She then went on to do her Higher English, Arithmetic, French, German, Latin and History in Class 6 at Secondary. She went on Aberdeen University to study Arts and later a Masters with honours in English Language and Literature. Her first year involved the study of English, French and German. Second yr- Advanced English, German and Latin. Third year- Junior Honours year- English and Moral Philosophy. Final year- Honours English. She then completed her teacher training at Aberdeen Training College in Psychology, Education and Biology. Her first job was at Narin Academy teaching Higher English. She stayed there her whole teaching career. She did stop in 1961 to help her mother on the farm after her Father suddenly passed away. By then the family had two farms, Bush and Upperton. Mr Grieve was a manager and he ran both farms for them. In 1965 her mother died and she returned to teach at Nairn Academy commuting from Bush Farm. Later she got married to James “Grantie” Garrow and he moved into Bush farm. He came from a local farming family, the Grant-Garrows and she had known him since they were both children.

Memory contributed by Aileen Garrow from Fochabers

Additional Information

The Tale of the Cheeryble Grants written by Aileen Garrow

Farming work
Australian_cart  Taken by fir0002 | Source  Details of licensing is here“Arranging the sheaves on the cart was very skilled as well – as with rick-building the sheaves had to be arranged carefully or the cartload or rick collapsed” source: Dorset Life website
Another link to an e-book about stacking sheaves
Stacking on a two wheeled cart- some pictures of farming in the 1930s.

Edinvillie 50th Dinner Dance
Edinvillie 50th anniversary Dinner danceAileen spoke at the dinner on 14th August 2009 about the early days of the Village Hall.
“Mr Burns then called upon Aileen Garrow, a former resident of Edinvillie, who spoke about the early days of the Hall, remembering many of the personalities who had contributed to its successes.”

History of Edinvillie School

Edinvillie history website featuring the school Source:

Edinvillie History website featuring the school

Here is a website with information about the History of Edinvillie School.