Station Buildings’ first appeared in the Strathard News, Issue 63, February 2011. Because it painted such a wonderful picture of life in Aberfoyle around the 1950s, it was re-published in the Strathard News, Issue 122, February 2023, as part of a series entitled ‘Stories from Strathard’.
Isobel Orr’s special article in Septembers Strathard News certainly got two Aberfoyle “boys” talking. Both were brought up in Station Buildings, the original name for Forthview. Cecil Beaton and Jim McGuire swapped stories, memories and chuckles for over an hour.
The Station Buildings, a red sandstone city tenement in a village, seems a bit of a puzzle. What quarry produced the sandstone as there were no such sources in the vicinity? Marjory Brown (McLaren) provided the answer. The stone was brought to the area in large quantities and was used primarily to test the weight bearing capacity of the proposed route for the railway. This would have been necessary due to the low-lying peatland that the track would be crossing. Having served that purpose, the stone was then used for the building to provide housing.
Station Buildings (far right), William Watt PC, Strathard Heritage Digital Archive
Macfarlanes, Browns, McKeichs, Orrs, McGuires, Tellers, Winstons, O’Sullivans, Macgregors and Beatons were all mentioned sharing the communal life afforded by living in such a building. The Macgregors and Beatons, ground floor tenants, had each a toilet which they shared with the shops on either side of them: the Blairs with the Macgregors, the Glens with the Beatons. If you were on the first and second floors there was one toilet to two households. These were situated on a half landing. Jim can remember little problem with this although up to ten people in the households would use the one WC. He would often use it as a refuge from Chuckles after some misdemeanour. Chuckles, the village policeman, ensured that the youth of the village never reached juvenile courts. His frequent presence around the village meant that escapades never became vandalism.
But back to The Building: drying greens and wash-houses were shared, with certain days being allocated to each household. In the wash-house was a big boiler heated below by a fire which had to be lit early on in the day. Rinsing was done in deep sinks with wringers attached. Life in Aberfoyle was observed from the front windows – a great viewing place, especially of the railway yard. Buses from Glasgow and Stirling were also an entertainment especially on a Sunday night when the hikers queued up waiting for their journey home.
Cecil remembers when one of the Misses Blair accused him of misbehaving and, although innocent of the crime, she stopped his weekly supply of the Beano, Dandy and Hotspur. “I’d to wait and get a read of someone else’s,” he complained. It obviously still rankles. Both McKeich brothers (top floor) were trick cyclists and were known to come down The Duke’s Pass with feet on handlebars. Eric, for whatever reason, used rone pipes and window sills to gain entry to his home on one occasion. Fellow occupants of the tenements formed close bonds and the memories of those days evoke happy times when money was scarce but boredom was an unknown state.
The main gathering place for The Building’s “gang” was outside Johnny Benedetti’s; the favourite drinks were hot orange and Tizer. Chuckles was always around and he would move them on. That took them to Manse Road and the Auld Brig where often a fag would be passed around. The turntable in the railway yard would be their next move. Depending on the weather and season, different activities kept the youngsters occupied. The site of the David Marshall Lodge was ideal for Cowboys and Indians and where the Memorial Hall now stands was a good bit for football. Food for free was always tempting and forays to the apple trees of the Bailie Nicol Jarvie, Purves’s and Chuckles’ were fair game in the autumn. Gulls’ eggs on Flanders Moss were collected and sold to the soldiers billeted in the village or taken back home to be used for baking pancakes.
Andrew Sinclair (not of The Building) was a great inventor of games and also a dab hand at creating a den. Lime Craig was the setting for these re-enactments of the latest movie seen by the lads. A hideout was necessary for such goings-on and Andrew would make a den either sideways into the hillside or just by digging a hole in the ground. He would source corrugated sheeting, perhaps from the coup, which became the roof and cover it with sods of turf – a perfect hideout. The material for the dramas acted out were got from the films viewed in Gartmore Village Hall put on by the soldiers. If you didn’t have a bike, you walked there and back using the railway track. The Picture House in Callander was a more expensive outing – bus fare as well as cinema ticket, with lemonade and chips if you were flush.
The boys from The Building matured into teenagers and became paper boys, milk boys and message boys. Davy King’s dairy, next to the present manse, was where the bottles were filled. On frosty mornings that was a finger-numbing job. Jim got his books for dropping a bottle but was employed later on that day by the Co-op as a message boy. The bike supplied was difficult to manage as the weight of the goods carried varied so much, but the Co-op’s wages were good. Not only that, the tips were generous especially from those who could least afford it. For far flung places like Kinlochard and Inversnaid, the message boy became the van boy and that was an adventure all of its own
No doubt there are lots of stories still to be told around The Building and, hopefully, Isobel’s article will trigger many more recorded memories.