A Walk from The Crescent to The Baillie by Isobel Orr, circa 1952
This marvellous account of an Aberfoyle childhood first appeared in the Strathard News, Issue 61, October 2010. It was re-published in the Strathard News in three parts, in November 2021, in Issue 119, February 2022, and in Issue 120, May 2022, as part of a series entitled ‘Stories from Strathard’.
I was born at Glenwood, Aberfoyle, in the house where my sister and brother in law still live, in 1941. I have very few sketchy memories of my very early years but remember fondly, an exciting and very vibrant village from about 1952 or so. I am sure some of my memories may be a little distorted by the passage of time but I am equally sure if I am way out, Robert Telfer, Joe Oliver, Stewart McLaren and Isobel Frame, among others will all be able to correct me. At that time we all knew everyone in the village, who lived in every house, but Aberfoyle was much smaller then.
The Crescent was probably only recently constructed and the first house was the semi-detached where Ann and Jimmy Wallace now live, the others on the Main Street and at the bottom of the crescent came later. Where the swing park is now was our favourite playground, “the NAAFI”. The large nissen huts, which had been there, had been removed, and the concrete bases left behind were a great place to play. Popular games were whatever was “in vogue” at the time, peever, skipping, riding our bikes round and round, kick the can, buzz off, every evening from the change of the clocks in the spring to the darkening autumn days, there was always somebody around the NAAFI to play. Walking further along the street, the road on the right led to Dan’s yard, no Montrose Road as yet. We frequently went up Dan’s yard to branch either right to go towards the Dounans where we had fun running back and forth over the pipe that spanned the burn, or maybe we would take a left over the stepping stones and up past Chubby’s store, where he stored his fruit and veg which he delivered round the village with his lorry, then on to the coup to see if any treasures could be found, or else to the piggery at the end of the lane where we were always amused by Andrew and Sam Sinclair’s pigs.
Back on the main road, the dairy and bakery was immediately over the bridge that spanned the ‘coup’ burn. The dairy was at the back of the bakery, bottles were sterilised and filled before the milk was delivered by Davy King, every morning (I often wonder where that milk came from?). Many of us keen to augment the family income helped deliver the milk in the morning before school. I hated delivering the milk, but I loved the bakery presided over by Mrs. King. The baker, par excellence, was Frank Piper, and the shop window, especially on Saturdays was a joy to behold. Much later we loved to go into the bakehouse, after returning from the Gartmore dancing to get a freshly made donut or a freshly baked roll.
Next door was Johnsons Garage. There must have been a bit of competition, as along the street was the Welfare Garage. My memory does not allow me to remember which did what, but they had coal lorries delivering coal which arrived by train at the siding, bin lorries collecting refuse from the houses and depositing it at the coup, and buses. Buses were a big part of our life. We could go to the pictures in Callander 3 times a week, I think that was with the Welfare buses. The programme changed Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Every year there was a mass exodus when all the available buses were used, decorated with streamers and balloons, to transport us to Burntisland for the Summer trip. When we got there we had the races, swam in the sea, played on the beach and had a great picnic, courtesy of the Cooperative – a ‘poke’ with goodies. I wish I could remember exactly what was in the ‘poke’. I just remember what a great day out that was. Saturday evenings in the summer were always exciting. The Rob Roy were a marvellous football team at that time, or so we thought, and every other Saturday in the summer they had an away game. Two buses were required, one for the players and the officials and one for the supporters. We loved going to exotic places like Deanston, Gartocharn and Blanefield. Other than that, we, as children, had little reason to go to the garage, other than to get paraffin or to get the battery for the wireless charged. Opposite the garage was a large area of waste ground behind which ran the railway, with the engine shed and the turntable, another favourite area for playing. The ‘English ‘ Church was as it is but the site of the Rectory was just a piece of rough ground. The guest house opposite Craiguchty was the joiner’s shop, and in the house next door, the Sunday papers were sold by Lil Lambert. Next door – now the Aberfoyle Butcher – was Bella Lambert’s – a sweetie shop with a great variety of jars with boilings of all sorts, attached a little tea room, but I don’t remember Bella ever serving teas there.
Almost opposite, the Welfare Garage, a row of petrol pumps, and a large shed which housed the bus. There was a shortcut from here up to the ‘back block’ on the Trossachs road but you used this at your own risk, as Ian Naismith had hens who ‘free ranged’ there, accompanied by the wildest cockerel you were ever likely to meet. You had to run like mad if it was in the vicinity to avoid an attack!
Rainbow’s End was Dr. McWhan’s surgery and also the Welfare office where I remember going to pay the coal bill for my Mother. We now arrive at the village centre, the hub of village life. The Station Buildings are on the right, the ground floor comprised two ground floor flats and two shops. On the right of the building was Glens – the drapers. He sold everything from thread, needles, pins and wool to liberty bodices, which we girls all wore in winter, and his favourite saying was” I’m just waiting for it coming in” if he did not have your requirements in stock. At the other end of the building, the newsagents, ably manned by Bella and May Blair. Woe betide you if they suspected any cheek or bad behaviour, the Dandy, Beano or whatever was withheld for that week. As Helen reported in her reminiscences, the papers arrived by train, and I’m sure I am not imagining this, but the place was heaving on a Saturday night awaiting the arrival of the train bringing the evening Times, News and Citizen with the football results and reports for that day. I wonder now, how they could have those ready in time, but I’m sure they did.
In front of the Station was the station square, terminus for the buses. Again I’m sure my memory does not play tricks but you could get a bus to Glasgow or Stirling, every two hours, or you could get the train! Duncan Campbell’s utility bus also ran very frequently to Kinlochard. Friday night at seven o’clock in the summer months saw the “invasion” of the hikers, out for the weekend. Our friendly village ‘bobby’, Chuckles, was usually on hand to welcome them to the Trossachs. If he recognised any who had caused trouble on a previous visit, he advised them to get back on the bus to Glasgow. We were all a bit scared of Chuckles.
On a Sunday evening there was a ‘mass’ return to the city, and we were sent along to the station square to get in the queue to keep a place for our relatives returning to Glasgow. The queue stretched right round three sides of the square, and there were always several duplicate buses as well as the service bus.
On the site of the tourist office were three shops. Mrs. Watt’s – the stationers where we got our new pencils, rubbers, etc., for back to school after the summer. Next door was the chemist and pharmacist, the dispenser was Miss Ferguson, and finally the shoe shop.
I loved the shoe shop, you could buy a new pair of shoes, but most of us will remember it for the huge stack of shoes presided over by old Tommy Frame, the cobbler. I was always scared when my shoes went to be mended or more likely to get segs in the heals, that I would never see them again, they would be lost in the pile. He always had his stove going and it was a great place to go and chat on a cold day in the winter.
Opposite on the site of the police station was another piece of spare ground and yet another shortcut up to the back block. Along the front of this bordering the street a row of high pine trees.
Staying on the right hand side of the street, was the Clachan Hotel, a sweet shop and again a little tearoom behind, which I never remember being open for teas, and next door McEwans, the grocer. This was a lovely grocer’s shop, but we always thought it was for the ‘posh’ people and only shopped there when we couldn’t get what we needed from the Co-op. McEwans, however was a busy shop, the Tesco of the time, as Davy Bell or maybe Mr, McKeich, the vanmen, loaded up their little lorry every day with orders to be delivered. Next door was the Co-op drapery. It had been the Co-op grocery, but a new shop had been built, a smaller version of the one now in the main street. The drapery was a great shop, it could provide all the school clothes, wellies, shoes, wool, summer and party dresses and even dishes, pots and pans and other household items. If they did not have what you required in stock you got a line to go to the Wholesale in Morrison Street in Glasgow, and we thought that was a wonderful adventure. Next door was the space reserved for the co-op van which was a travelling shop, replenished every day and serving the outlying district, Dalmary, Gartmore, lnversnaid and Strony as well as places like the Slate Quarries. The driver was Kenny Morrison.
Many of the boys at that time were employed after school and on Saturday to deliver orders on the delivery bicycles.
The co-op was also a fine shop and to my knowledge no one ever left the village to buy their groceries, all we ever needed was available on hand. At the co-op you always had to remember your number, ours was 647, and the dividend in these days was a marvellous windfall at the end of every quarter.
We will continue on the right hand side of the street to the Baillie and return from there on the left.
Next door to the Co-op was the post office, and it was only a post office, as far as I can remember, and then there was the Butcher’s shop, presided over by Mr. McLaren and later by Mr Halkerston. It was a proper butcher’s shop, and you may find this disagreeable, but we knew no difference. The carcasses of the sheep, and pigs, were hanging on hooks to the right of the shop, opposite the counter, and a huge carcass of beef was always hanging towards the back of the shop waiting to be cut into the various cuts. There always seemed to be a queue at the butchers.
Next door to the butcher was the cafe – Johny’s. Political correctness was alien to us at that time and the cafe was affectionately known as the “Tally’s” They made the best ice cream, a threepenny cone was the order of the day with a dash of raspberry. Dora and Johny were the salt of the earth. I don’t think there was an extensive menu but teas and coffees and hot orange was always on offer and they were always busy especially at weekends. (In 1956 we thought we were in Heaven when they installed a Juke box – pure magic – music and hot orange).
Then on the corner, as now, was The Bank. I remember going in there with my mother and feeling as if I was in a hallowed place, presided over by Mr. Cameron and Mr. Wilson, and of course, unlike now, it was open every day.
On the other side of the Trossachs Road was the Baillie Nicol Jarvie Hotel, renowned for its excellence. The public bar was a favourite meeting place for the village men and in the hotel was the cocktail bar, barman George McAdam – this was as quaint and as beautiful a small bar as you could ever imagine.
Probably the hotel’s best known resident, to us, the children of the time, was Jimmy the Parrot. Health and Safety was not an issue at that time and Jimmy was housed in the kitchen in the hotel. On good days in the summer Jimmy was brought out in his cage into the very beautiful garden at the Baillie. Coming down the road from school we could hear Jimmy whistling as far away as the police brae, whereupon we all ran to get a prize place on the wall to watch him and to encourage him to whistle, shout and swear.
To the rear of the car park in front of the hotel was the Baillie Garage. Among other things this housed the local fire engine. A fire was reported to the Baillie office, someone ran to the hotel kitchen and pressed the switch which activated the siren alerting the local retained firemen. There was also a workshop where rather beautiful small brass ornaments were made. The business was called Aberfoyle Industries and was masterminded by a lovely Polish man who stayed in Scotland after the war, his name was Shemanus (Sp. doubtful). Major Cameron who owned the hotel, also kept his car here, and Tommy Sinclair, his chauffeur spent a part of every day polishing this, his pride and joy.
Crossing over the street was the poker tree, again that was a very beautiful garden but at that time my father was the head gardener and if my memory serves me correctly he had three assistants.
Continuing along on this side of the street, crossing the Manse Road on the right hand side was the putting green. This also belonged to the Baillie. It was beautifully kept and generally well used in good weather. Bordering this on the street side was a low wall, the Medical Board. I do not know how you qualified to sit there but it always seemed to me to be the “old” men of the village, probably they were not that old, but we loved to join in and listen to their stories of more colourful times and often hard times of which we as children were unaware.
Completing our walk we arrive at the Pavilion – now the Forth Inn. At that time it was like a big wooden chalet, but it was very well maintained, and I appreciated later had a wonderful floor for dancing. This was also owned by the Baillie, run and managed by Mrs Cameron. I started working there in the summer holidays when I was 12. That seemed to be allowed at that time. It was very, very busy, seasonal, opening only from March to October, but serving approx 250 lunches and 250 high teas every day. These are stories for another time and we have now completed our walk round the village.
I feel that it was a great privilege to grow up in Aberfoyle and I have nothing but happy memories of a care free childhood. In comparison with today we had very little and yet we had everything that we needed. The village was a friendly place where we all knew each other, where many extended families lived and where there was not a great deal of necessity to go too far afield to get all that you needed to survive. I hope some of my memories will trigger some more from other folks who shared the privilege of growing up in Aberfoyle at that time.