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Equality for all

As was customary with men working on a farm, if single, they were given Bothy accommodation.  If and when they married they might be lucky enough to get a cottage on the farm as long as the wife worked on the farm also.  My grandmother, Mary, cleaned kitchens, bothies and farm buildings; working on the land, leaving her children in a wooden drawer at the side of the field.  Then when the children left school, they were made to work there also.  Every six months the workers were fee’d on.  If the farmer wanted them they got kept on but if he did not they would be thrown out of the cottage.


After four generations and six decades of my grandfather’s family working in the same area, probably for the same farmer, my father, his son, refused to be fee’d on.  He wanted to try a new way of making a living.  Little did he know; when his father informed the farmer, he was told to pack up and look for a new job and home.

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This is when my father, John Stewart, arrived in Falkland at the age of 16 to find work at the extension of the new linoleum factory.  He also managed to acquire a rented house for his mother and father.  At the age of 50 my grandfather never worked on a farm again. He found jobs in the village tending people’s gardens.  After a move to their second rented house in the village, my granny took in boarders to supplement their income.  The eldest of my grandparents’ children, James, was in the Black Watch during the Second World War, after which he purchased a mobile grocery van going round the country cottages delivering groceries.  Their second son, Robert, continued to work on the farms, making him exempt from National Service.  He then got a job at the linoleum factory, and started a little small holding at Balmblae when the houses were emptied.


In the next nine years my father worked, learned to play the bagpipes, from Mr Hain and bought a motor-bike, (taking him many places including visiting the TT races on the Isle of Man).  He met, and later married my mother, at Gretna Green on their way to an October holiday weekend in Blackpool.  After returning home they didn’t tell anyone and married at Falkland United Free Church Manse in December 1937. They rented a house in the middle of Balmblae, where I was brought home to from Kirkcaldy hospital in 1940.

Betty Gilchrist

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The war arrived and my father had to join the forces, leaving Mum and me on our own, but not alone, as my grandparents lived nearby, and other family members.  Dad chose the R.A.F., being stationed in Blackpool, where he became an HGV driver, then Oban, then finally before the war ended he was in Berlin, Germany.  Luckily the war finished soon after. Returning home, my dad expected to pick up his job in the factory but as it happened the local postman was retiring, Dad applied for and got the job.


 My sister, Maureen, was born in 1945 and we moved to the house they bought further along Balmblae, “Rose Cottage”.  This house had running water in the house and a flushing toilet.  After a few years my Dad brought the electricity into the house and we got a bath installed.  My Dad continued delivering the post in Falkland, in the morning cycling to Falkland Road Station to collect the mail from the train, taking it to Freuchie to sort, then delivering to Freuchie, Newton-of-Falkland and Falkland, finishing at 5.00pm.  

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He continued to play his pipes, becoming the youngest Pipe Major in Scotland at the time.  He was Pipe Major of several Pipe Bands, Methill P.B., Seafield Colliery P.B. etc.  He played at many a Burns Night Supper in the village and to many, including royalty, in the palace.  He taught many children to play the Bagpies including three of the children of the Mr. Hain who had taught him, and he also taught a future Pipe Major of the Black Watch. He became involved in politics, joining the Labour Party and becoming a union representative in the P.T.W.U. and the Community Council.  My father was a great believer in equality for all, not that everyone should be given equal reward for anything and nothing, but equal reward for equal work.


Unfortunately in 1969 my Mum died of a perforated ulcer, which devastated my Dad.  He never took much to do with the running of the house, so after a year of him being on his own Alex and I made a decision to move back to Falkland, renovating the house to make it large enough for us and our two children.  Dad continued to work for the Post Office but had moved to Glenrothes by that time.  It was a very good decision for us all as it worked wonderfully.  Dad retired in 1973, just at the time when the new Golf Club was formed so him and Uncle Bert spent every morning playing Golf.  They also joined the Bowling Club, playing in the evenings and afternoons.  The Masonic Lodge at that time also decided to get their own premises.  Dad spent a lot of time fundraising and then renovating the Liquorstane Building, many Masonic and private functions were enjoyed there till it was sold in 2016.


Dad died in 1985, a great miss to us all.


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Betty's own words