This fascinating picture of Stronachlachar life first appeared in the Strathard News, Issue 64, March/April 2011. It was re-published in Strathard Life, Issue 115, Autumn 2019 as part of a series entitled ‘Stories from Strathard’.
I pay a visit to Strony from time to time and feel sad to see the village going further down hill each time I go. The Glasgow Corporation Water Department was in charge in my early days at Strony. My memories of the place and the people who lived there are happy ones.
The staff consisted of: A Superintendent and his assistant, two painters, one joiner, plumber, electrician, stone mason, horse man, lorry driver, blacksmith, gamekeeper, a dairyman with his wife assisting, a caretaker with his wife assisting and a caretaker in the Hostel for workers who had to stay at Strony and go home at week-ends. On average there were six workmen in the Hostel; these were the odd job men. So, it was quite a community.
What had been one large house was divided into two; namely the Lodge and the House. After the War, the Glasgow Baillies and their friends and families came to these houses – one of the many perks bestowed on them for their services to Glasgow. We used to look forward to the Baillies’ arrival come the summer; each family stayed for two weeks. We soon got to know whose finger was in which pie: some had dealings with the Fruit Market, some the Meat Market and so on. Food was still rationed but they always had plenty. Some of them were quite generous to the Local Yokels and would give a concert with tea and ‘goodies’ laid on afterwards. There were Bowling Competitions between them and us – serious stuff; Fishing Competitions, the sponsor providing the prizes which were food stuffs – for instance sugar, which was in short supply. The sponsor got the trout that were caught. He wisnae sleepin wis he?
Not many people knew that the Burrell Art Collection was stored and guarded at Strony during the war.
There was a dairy herd of cows which the dairyman and his wife attended to. Their milk was sold to the locals at a nominal charge.
The electrician maintained the sewage plant which was known as ‘The Sludge’, also ‘The Power House’. The electricity was a direct current, which meant that an iron and vacuum sweeper were the only gadgets we were allowed. The sewage plant was cleaned out regularly; this is when Paddy the Horse and his minder came into play: the effluent was pumped into a barrel mounted on a cart which Paddy pulled to the midden where the barrel was emptied. The day this job was done was known as the ‘Gold Standard Run’!
The painters maintained the properties, which was like the painting of the Forth Bridge; come the last house, they would start all over again.
The plumber, when he wasn’t plumbing, swept chimneys and cursed and swore the whole time he was at it. We disregarded his language since to have a chimney fire was a major crime. Mind you, we did have a fire engine of sorts and no, Paddy didn’t pull it.
The lorry was used for everything and in the winter it was our lifeline on many an occasion when the vans couldn’t get through because of snow. The joiner repaired the rowing boats during the winter, ready for the next year. In the summer, he repaired what needed doing on the properties. The caretaker’s wife cleaned the afore-mentioned houses with an assistant. We had two days to do it, which was known as ‘the change over’. It was hard work but we had many a laugh. The blacksmith made shoes for Paddy keeping his feet comfortable. He also dressed tools and blethered.
Once the summer was over we settled into winter activities which were few and far between. A weekly Whist Drive was the main thing; with Summer Ice for the men; the odd dance where tea was provided and everybody baked something. The gamekeeper’s wife cooked and minced rabbits supplied by the gamekeeper. This filling was for the sandwiches and was known as ‘Strony Chicken’. We had a Women’s Rural Institute which in later years became known as Inversnaid and Stronachlachar W.R.I. We looked forward to the monthly meetings and learned a lot of useful things. The Corporation supplied a black and white television set which was installed in the Committee Room for the use of everyone. We thought we were in Heaven and went to the ‘pictures’ as we called it, to watch everything and anything. Whatever the weather threw at us never deterred us.
I wouldn’t like to go back and stay at Strony now; I’m too used to street lights and people all around me, so it’s true to say there’s a time in your life for everything.