Tam's father was a shepherd; much in demand for his expertise at many farms all over the area. In 1958 the family moved to a house up in Back Dykes (now called Drummond House).
Those were the days in Falkland; a fish & chip shop and a barber’s shop down by the garage on the A912. So the men of the village could eat well and look smart without leaving Falkland! One of the chippies was in the shop that became Kind Kyttocks and, later, Betty Boo. At the weekend young lads would go to Davie Walker’s, the Barber adjoining Jack Mathew’s Garage rather than Leven’s the Chemist where there was much more chance of bumping into a lady. But if they went into Davie’s when it was empty and then some gent they knew happened to come in they would fluster a bit and say, “Can I have a packet of…….. Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum please?”
The shop that became Fayre Earth was once a village stores, where, as well as general goods and papers, villagers could have teas or coffees or the delicious ice-cream made by the Italian proprietors (the Lannis) while listening to the songs of the moment played on the shop’s juke box.
Tony Lanni winning the sack race at sports day
My father was involved with setting up farm ‘roups after farmers unfortunately went bankrupt so there were many years of moving from farm to farm, often for short sittings and sometimes for as little as three months. My father would see to the livestock and do the harvest or hay making, depending on the time of year these ‘roups (farm sales) were taking place. Then he would have to set out the tractors, trailers, machinery and small tools etc. ready for the day and time of the sale. He would then move out of the farmhouse to carry out his Shepherd’s work. So you can understand my mother being a bit fed up of moving so often!
Mother had saved her store dividend for many years and decided to buy Backdykes House so that her and old Tam could enjoy a more settled life with the bonus of it being in the village of Falkland. The house cost £150 in 1958.
With the benefit of his old van, dad was able, with his contacts in the agricultural industry, to go around doing all sorts of jobs, e.g. fencing, land drainage, ditching and so on. He bought the old Gasworks to store his tools and fencing stock, added to that he bought a tractor and various pieces of machinery. I think he paid around £120 in 1960/61.
The stone coffin (which we took to be a stone trough) lay against the gable of Backdykes House and was obstructing the parking of my father’s van. My mother asked if I could remove it to make space for the van. As it was too heavy to handle I decided to break it up (wanton vandalism!) and use it to fill in an area to the rear of the house. The coffin was approximately 5’ 6” by 20” inside and was carved for a smaller person, these stone coffins led to the phrase “stone cold dead”. Coffins would have been taken first to the Liquorstane and laid on two stones while the cortege would go into the Liquorstane for a dram before going through Falkland, with the mourners behind, towards the cemetery at West Port. The day after I had broken up the coffin Mr Lothian (guide at the Palace) arrived at the house and asked what had happened to the coffin as he had come to see if we could donate it to the Palace. I told him what I had done and said that if he had come a day earlier he would have been welcome to take it. The coffin was used as in-fill, rest in pieces!
Bill Duncan, a well known local character, took his goats back and forth to Sugar Acre every day as well as taking his pet pig on shopping trips to the village shops. Bill kept several goats, some pigs and a collie dog. One pig in particular used to follow Bill throughout the village and even into the local Co-op. On one occasion Bill entered the Co-op not knowing that they had got a new manager. In the Co-op that day, he was told that he could not bring his pig into the store so he left saying, “If I can’t have my pig with me, I won’t be shopping here again!”
Bill would set of up the West Port with the goats following on behind him, on through the Falkland Estate gates, up and round the cricket pitch. By the time they got back the goats had eaten their fill from the hedges etc. (who said there was no such thing as a free lunch!). In the winter Bill would get the brock and chat potatoes sent down for pig feed and I was often sent down to deliver them. He used to wear ex Army trousers with large side pockets and after I had unloaded he would reach down into one of the said pockets (you could see him rummaging about) until his hand came upon what were known as “wooden threepennies” as a tip. He never got it wrong, every time it was a “wooden threepenny” (1p in today’s money).
As Bill got older he suffered terribly with arthritis and he found bending to milk his goats an impossible task so he would put goat cake on top of the kist; the goats would jump up to eat it and so Bill was then able to milk them standing up. His theory was that if you can’t get down to the udder, bring the udder up to you! Bill used to rent me his garage for 5 shillings (25p) per week. My first car was a Hillman Hunter.
There are many more stories about old Bill. We don’t get characters like him anymore.
Another local resident was Charlie Bain who lived where the road bends into West Port in what is now known as Whinstone House. He built the model, which can be seen today in the garden of his old house. It is a beautiful scaled down version. Charlie was the best dancer for miles around and he was never short of a partner at dances like the one held regularly at Kingskettle.
Then there was PC Isla Mackenzie. Isla actually came from the island of Isla. The Rowan tree is sacred to the Isle of Isla and PC Mackenzie had one in his garden. Three high spirited local men thought that they would cut it down one night after the pubs had closed. They did not manage to cut through the tree and, after two of the miscreants had slipped away home, number three settled down under the Rowan tree and fell asleep. Needless to say, when discovered dreaming away under the tree and the stars by PC Mackenzie, the fellow confessed and named his accomplices, all of whom ended up in court in Cupar with a fine to pay for their trouble.
I recall a story about Peel (Will Hastie). He took a party of Belgians out on a deer hunt on the Lomonds above Kilgour Farm. As the party had spread out, all of a sudden Peel heard three shots ring out and an excited Belgian came over the knowe calling to Peel that he had shot three deer. On investigating Peel found three black-faced sheep, unfortunately very dead. No doubt that it was mutton on the menu that evening!
On rare occasions Peel would head down to the village for a good drink. On one such occasion, a winter evening, Peel got extremely drunk and left for home - his house next to the saw mill. Next morning his sister, Nan, realizing he hadn’t come home raised the alarm. After searching the route he would take home they found Peel covered in white rime, luckily he was well clothed and tanked with whisky which he later called his anti-freeze.
On another occasion when they had sheepdog trials and sports and games for all ages including a hill race, they asked for a volunteer to make sure that the runners did not cheat so Peel said that he would do it. He was dispatched to the top of the hill an hour before the race. Unbeknown to anyone he had a bottle of whisky with him which he drank, fell asleep and never saw any runners. Next day when challenged Peel said that he knew nothing about a hill race!
If ever there was a person who was "happy in their own skin" as they say then Maggie was that person. She loved nothing better than to call to the young lads “race you to the end of the street” by this time she had a ten/fifteen yard start on us and invariably won.
They were doing an animated film of Tam O’ Shanter in the village and Maggie was an onlooker (she had a high-pitched laugh, come screech) and let one go while they were filming. On hearing this the film director asked her if she would stand in a doorway and, when he gave her the cue, would she give out the high pitched laugh plus screech (which she duly did) as a sound of a witch was required. On the following Saturday night I went into the shop to pick up my copy of The Sporting Post and Maggie was there. “Tam”, she exclaimed, “I am a star!” On another occasion she came round the corner and young Tony Lani was waiting (unbeknown to Maggie) on top of a block and jumped on her back exclaiming “The Red Indians have got you”
Kate ran the Fish & Chip Shop, which later became a hairdresser’s. Charlie, her husband, sat on the steps outside while Kate sweated in the Chip Shop. Charlie, always puffing away on a cigarette, would tell tales about his days in the Merchant Navy. He used to say that “ships used to be wooden with men of steel. Now they have steel ships with wooden men.” I wonder if his opinion would change if he saw today’s high-tech vessels?
Around about 1970, Andy Williams and Johnny Cash starred in a Christmas show for American television. It was filmed in two locations, one at Anstruther and the other at Falkland Palace. Johnny Cash’s ancestors originated from Strathmiglo and the family name lives on in place names such as “Cash Mill”, “Easter Cash” and so on.
What characters they all were. Happy days.
As told to Iiz Coates
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