Strathard Heritage Archive

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Village living

What a great article Isabel McGuire wrote about the Station Buildings and it’s residents. I always wondered about this fine building and the people that lived in it. Isabel’s described life as I knew growing up in the village. I always thought it a posh place full of the better cut o’ gentry than we.  Och, and they only had one toilet per dozen or so! But at least they had electricity and clean tap water.  

While living in a wee wooden house in the slate quarry village up on the Duke’s Pass, we at least had the luxury of our own out-house  (i.e., bogg  as on the architectural drawings for the Inversnaid Fort – dated 1718; or, if you prefer the more sanitized definition, the “ Privy”). But we had a short run about 30 feet across a sodden wet  bog to get to use our  bogg – that was an especially miserable run on a gie driech day. The Cottaries, (the proper name for the slate quarry village) had ample water supply. Our house had a doubtful sort of tap water drawn from a source that was shared by herds of sheep. To my recollection, household water was generally from the stream running past their door. 

For cooking we burned coal in grand old cast iron range. On the few occasions for heating the house, we used peat, which we cut-n-dried ourselves. As for the merits of peat, K. Macleod’s delightful song “By the Light of the Peat Fires Flame” did not ring true for us, since the light from our peat fire was dimmer than the starlight coming through the window. Lighting, especially for school homework, was by the light o’ the smelly kerosene lamp. As for entertainment, other than squabbling with the siblings, was mostly trying to make sense of the weak squeals fading in-and-out from a crystal radio – an odd and lengthy sort of pastime that wasted many fruitless hours. But the best of true highland living was not so much the humble house, but the fantastic landscape full of life and just enough mountaineering dangers to keep us on an even keel mentally & physically.  

What Isabel did well to describe the characters and village life as I knew it. Indeed, her article contrasts with the romanticism of the likes of the Scot’s Magazine with its steady stream of articles from  those latter day, dreamy-eyed, grossly over-dressed hikers and of course the tourist websites that tend paint an idyllic picture of sleepy and genteel village – which Aberfoyle appears to be on the surface. But there is a business was village full of rambunctious youngsters – a little mischievous perhaps, but never cruel.  And much of the civility was, as Isabel pointed out so well, was due to that long departed headmaster master of village decorum, PC Chuckles Robertson the village policeman He was kind but firm dedicated soul. I ran afoul of him only once and that was on the Duke’s Pass on When things were very quiet for Chuckles (probably 95% of his time, he would go up the Dukes Road as darkness descended and stand behind an old oak tree beside the road near what is now the intersection leading to the David Marshal Lodge. With the patience of Job, his objective was to catch quarry lads helter – skeltering down the Duke’s pass on a bicycle without lamps fore-n-aft. Ironically, we always expected the big black shadow of the law to loom out from behind the tree. Then the dreaded bellow “Come here laddy”.  But, I going much too fast and also too scared to stop for him  ‘Scot Free’ so I thought.  A couple of days later he grabbed and bawled “Why did ye no stop when I telt ye tae.”    “Stop where?” I ask..” Up the pass on ye’re bike the ither nicht” He says. “I wisnae oan ma bike the other nicht, it wis broken, so it must hae been wan o’ them other durty faces.”  For fleeting moment Chuckles may have I had a point insofar on right dark night he couldn’t possibly have distinguish the owner of one durty face from another. But, as Isabel pointed so well, the venerable and decent Chuckles had his own unique way breeding good manners. So rather than wait till he caught me the next time, , he gave me a few whacks around the arse and legs (we wore short trousers then) with his heavy-duty leather motorcycle  gloves with a warning “ Dinnae let me catch ye withoot a light oan ye’re bike or I’ll gie ye another guid skelpin’.”  Thankfully I was only 12 years old at the time, because some the workers who were caught without lights on the bikes had to pay a fine they could ill afford. 

Ah! My dear Bobby chuckles, he might not have been able to sort out owners of durty faces in the dark; but certainly had the measure of your character and made considerable improvements  to it without the aid of billy clubs, rubber hoses, tasers, or armaments. Just plain old-fashioned leather gloves. That was my only badge of honour from Chuckles. Long after Chuckles passed on,  I can almost hear the little group of old pensioners who used sit on the low stone wall opposite the Post office on Main Street paying the ultimate compliment to PC Robertson as fine policeman  “Och! they’re no’ made o’ the same metal as oor Chuckles.”