As one Falkland resident put it, things that were started by local people, often children, were then taken on by the authorities.
Maureen Bell, a child in the 1940s and 1950s, grew up in the Back Dykes, and tells us that the only swings in Falkland were down at the Myre at the back of Lomand Crescent so her father and two other local residents decided to do something about it. With finance provided by Mr Welch (who ran a builder's yard), he along with Bert Speak and Tam Anderson built some children’s swings to the rear of Back Dykes. They have since been taken over by the Council.
There were a lot of stray cats in the village in the 1960’s, all fathered by a Manx tom-cat. Most were long haired with no tails! The West Port children used to find them hidden in bushes and in abandoned houses. Some of the girls discovered, when carrying around those sweet little unusual kittens, that visitors to the village often wanted to buy them, earning the girls sweety money to spend in Dick Homden’s shop. The rest of the strays were taken to a lady in the village called Miss Gifford. She took in stray cats and looked after them.
Another way for the kids to earn sweety money was to gather outside the church whenever a wedding was held. Traditionally, the male members of the wedding party (groom, bride’s father and best man) would throw money for the children to catch. This was called a scramble or Scooroot. It could be quite painful as you were liable to be stamped on or squashed in the rush. Mostly, the bigger kids did best out of this but a small child might just be in the right place at the right time for the money thrown.
A favourite game then was “Levo” (similar to British Bulldog). The fountain was the den and you had to make your way back there without getting caught. The game could go on for hours with kids running through the streets, closes and gardens until it got dark.
Every year there was a festival held with a parade, fancy dress and a pageant. Later, there was a pram race held on the Stag Inn Brae (very dangerous and probably why it was stopped). Another highlight every year was the ‘Muchty Market' which had dodgem cars and carousels. One year, for some reason, they held the 'Muchty' down the Myre instead of in Auchtermuchty.
On Bonfire Night there was fierce rivalry between the West Port children and the Back Dykes children regarding the size and impressiveness of each group’s bonfire. The two groups regularly sabotaged the other’s bonfire and supplies had to be well guarded until the big day! No adults were involved in the bonfire arrangements; the children ran the show! Barrows were used to collect old furniture and wood for the fire. The West Port kids hid a lot of their bonfire material in the Newlands paddock to stop it being stolen. The West Port bonfire was sited on the Clough and then later, after the Balmblae houses were demolished, it moved to the other side of the burn. Any unsold fireworks at Spittals Hardware were donated for the big event and they were usually the expensive, spectacular ones! One year all this fun came to an end when a local school teacher, Mr Baigrie, took it upon himself to light the children’s bonfire! After that bonfire construction and lighting became the prerogative of adults.
There used to be a dam just before the entrance to the estate. This was where the boys of the village learnt to swim. When the dam was emptied and also when the duck pond was cleaned out, huge fish found their way down to the Maspie Burn at the West Loan. The boys would guddle for the fish which seemed enormous. In the summer, dams were built and the children would swim and paddle there.
Two girls, Rachel and Sheila, organised Record Hops in the Town Hall. Money raised went to Cancer Research. The girls were too young to book the hall themselves so an older boy, Alan Crockett, submitted the hiring applications. Posters were made and put up and soon the Record Hops became so popular that local teenagers from nearby villages began to attend. And so, almost inevitably, adults took on the organisation and running and the events were moved to the Free Kirk premises.
Sheila and Rachel also held Jumble Sales for Cancer Research and these were held on stalls sited at Cross Wynd. It was commonplace for the girls of the village often to take people’s babies for walks and this activity led, in time, to baby-sitting. Two enterprising girls also kept hens and found out that they could sell these to the babies’ parents for a premium. If the chickens were not laying, and if there was demand, the eggs were supplemented by white shop bought eggs with a few feathers put on to make them appear authentically local and home produced!
What fun they had!
Do you recognise yourself or any of the children? Please get in touch. Share your memories with us, so that they will never be lost or forgotten.
as told to Liz Coates
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