"Paraffin Junx"

These children certainly knew how to make their own fun!  There was no time for anybody to be bored.  From catching rabbits and selling them to the butcher, to sharing bikes, to guddling trout (on one occasion they caught five, tying them up in Kenny Cambell’s new leather jacket to carry down to the fishmonger for half a crown) life was spent outside, in and around the village of Falkland.  There were the well remembered games of Hide & Seek; Kick the Can Thirty and Levo and Colours.  These were very popular with both boys and girls, played happily together, but this was not always the case.  John remembers being asked to turn the rope for a bunch of girls in time with the words of a skipping song.  He could not wait for a girl to come over (what seemed like hours later) and take the end of the rope from him so that he could escape, declining the offer to skip himself!

Grandad John Gordon had a farm, Fiddlehall Farm (no longer there) and young John spent most of his spare time at the farm working alongside his grandad.  This is something he loved to do and remembers fondly.


Fiddlehall Farm.  Mum Isabella (Isa) and uncle c1930's


Our father John


Our sister Lilly, John, Tam & Gordon

Girls did not take part in the football matches played on a pitch drawn up in Lomond Crescent.  The boys had great times on that, carefully opening and closing people’s gates to retrieve the ball if it went into someone’s garden. Marbles, especially “holees” was a popular game as was “hoppity-dunt” at school and, of course, chessies (conkers) in the Autumn.

There were not that many cars around in those days but never mind cars, not many families had bikes, least of all the children, so they were borrowed and shared between the kiddies.  Gordon remembers one great bike trip on one bike with 5 children on it; one on the handlebars; one on the bar; one pedalling; one on the seat and one on the back mudguard, all the way from the Big Brae on the High Road down to Falkland.  Legs were red raw by the time they got home as well as one boy's bottom, dragging on the road from the rear mudguard.

Gordon was always looking for ways to acquire a few pennies.  As well as catching rabbits and tickling trout, the kids would lift the gratings from drains to feel around inside, checking for dropped coins which, if discovered, would be washed off and spent on sweeties. 

In the summer, John would go picking raspberries for 2p a pound.  In a day he could make £1.00 – a champion picker.  The money went to buy a bike for his wee sister.  As soon as the boys were big enough “Tattie picking” brought in 17/6 (75p) a day during the season and the money earned was used to buy school clothes for the winter.  John’s main job as a child, was to watch the animals down on the myre for his granddad. He also had to distribute tatties to local dignitaries in the town such as the Minister and the Doctor.  As a young lad he had to handle the coupcart (the tipping cart), and on stopping at a delivery, John had to hold the horse’s head, tip the cart and sort out the potatoes, all without losing control of any part of the operation.  This was quite a feat for a boy in his early teens but, as his grandfather and parents always said, “Hard work, perseverance and respect for people and their property; that’s the way to be.”

People did respect each other and, on the whole, helped each other out without question.  John used to go to the Scout Camp and, in preparation for this, each scout would take a piece of coal to their meetings and this was stored up for fires when the camp was set up.  The scout troop had regular sales of donations in order to buy the necessary food and equipment for the camp.  When the time for the camp arrived, Will Michie from the Newton of Falkland would scrub out his cattle float until it was spotless and this was then loaded up with all the camping gear together with the scouts and scout leaders off they would go, waving at everyone in each village they passed through.  When camping at Anstruther, near the railway line, train drivers would slow down and the stoker would throw off coal for the Boy Scout Troop and its leaders.  (No “Judies” were ever allowed in the camp, it was boys only!)  When John was on cooking duties, he tried to hurry up the sausage frying by pouring paraffin on the fire, but, unfortunately, it went all over the sausages which did not go down very well with the hungry boys; a slightly different flavour!  The Scouts nicknamed him, “Paraffin Junx” after that episode.  Happy days!

As the boys got older, they would go along to the War Memorial Institute and play billiards; a harmless and engrossing activity that was stopped for some reason and so the lads went back to other activities including hill running.  Both boys were fast runners, up and down the hill all the time and Gordon could do it in 19 minutes flat.


Gordon, Tam & John


John, Gordon & John's Son John

as told to Liz Coates by the big brother and the wee one