Fitba an’ Siller

When I wis a bairn, siller wis in short supply in Kemnay. The top ten percent seem’d tae hae plenty but ence the Quarry closed it wis tougher times. I remember my faither saying mair than once ‘at their wis niver ‘ good aul’ times’ they wir aye hard.

Kemnay Quarry granite is light grey wi a dark slub through it an a high percentage o’ mica. The mica shimmers or sparkles in the sunlicht an’ ats why Aberdeen is known as the Silver City as mony o’ the buildings are faced in Kemnay stane. Marishall College is nearly a’ Kemnay. My Granfaither Alexander Gordon made a’ the stane for the main entrance gate. He wis a worker; fin the quarry closed fae makkin granite face products Pop wis 77 years and he wisnae ready tae retire so he gid doon tae the manager and telt him in strong terms ‘at he wisnae much o’ a manager tae close the quarry on him. Mony ither buildings are faced wi Kemnay in Edinburgh, London Glasgow an’ mair.

The new Scottish Parliament at Holyrood has the entrance expanse floored wi Kemnay wi a dark border o’ some foreign marble. So if ye start awa at Edinburgh Castle, gang doon the Royal Mile, ower the Heart of Midlothian ootside the Law Courts, stotter intae the End o’ the World Pub for a dram an’ then doon tae Holyrood an’ turn right an intae Parliament. Definately worth a look.

When the orders for stane at Kemnay wir thin quarrymen an’ loons went tae America for wark. Willie Gordon started a quarry at Hall Quarry in Maine [ 1920’s ] and shipped stane oot o’ Bar Harbour an’ Boston. Mony masons wint awa’ for twa or mair years wark. Now a branch o’ the Gordons are still in Boston.

Howiver,, back tae my plight as a bairn wi nae siller. I wis roon aboot 12 [ 1953, coronation year ] fin I asked my mither for a byke. My problem wis a’ the ither loons; Schochie Clark, Kenny Daun [ cousin ] Bertie Rose, Jimmie Gibb, tae spik o’ a few, widnae let it rest that my byke wis a quines een. Fin I speared o’ my mither for money she firmly sed ” get a job. ”

So I got a job deliverin’ milk roon Kemnay for the Monymusk Dairy. The driver wis Eric Eddie fae the last hoose in Monymusk on the richt han’ side gan oot o’ the Musk on the wye tae the castle.  Eric wis aye lauchin’, spikkin’ an’ cheerie.  I got up at 5:30, wi the help o’ mither, an I had tae be at the War Memorial at 6 sharp. The milk cairt wis electric so there wis nae engine noise in the early mornin’, jist the skelp o’ feet , rinnen on stanes or sna’ or frost or watter. Eric did the drivers side o’ the road an’ I delivered on my side. We baith louped dykes and gates tae set doon the milk bottles, nae time tae open an close a gate, an’ the cairt jist went quietly up the road by itsell.  Friday wis siller day an’ affa slow fin there wis frost. Wiffies wid rinse oot the bottles the nicht afore , pit the siller in the bottle an’ pit it on the step. The watter wid gither ower the siller and freeze an’ then the bottle wid freeze tae the granite step. Ye’ hid tae coont 6p’s’s, pennies, ha’pennies and farthings through an ice block. I got tae school een day an’ Elsie Harper wis after me for her farthing change. I didnae hae a farthing , but, she insisted I pit an envelope address to Miss Harper wi a farthing intilt, the morn under her milk bottle. Oh aye ,, times wir hard.

I did the milk roon for aboot three years, bit afore ‘at, I had saved 25 pounds an’ went intae Aberdeen tae Hallfords an’ bought a Malvern Star, metallic blue racing byke. Made in Australia it wis a topper an’ dumfunnert a’ the loons wi’ the backside hignin’ oot o’ their breeks.

Thats fin I stated my motto ” If ye wint a thing deen, dee it yersell ”

The milk roon hid tae stop fin I wint tae Inverurie Academy an’ siller wis still sparse. I hid ither special times tho’.

I fancied a lassie fae Keig , jist up the Don. She hid hair that wis dark broon wi red shimmers throu’ it an I suppose it wis auburn , bit outstanding. She spelt her name Moyra Symon and I was bouled ower by her hair, her smile an’ her body. She didnae like me an gave me a very hard time. I think she ended up in Lincolnshire wi an American an a puckle o’ kids. She was one of the stunning girls when I was at the Academy.

Meg Stuart fae Inch took her place. Red hair wi an emerald green dress she asked me to dance at a fourth form fairwell. I wis honoured tae dance wi the School Captain. Meg wis a top person an’ one I am glad tae hae been friendly wi. She was in Sydney in 2005 and I was lucky tae hae lunch wi her in Crows Nest. She hidnae changed much. I wis amazed.

Siller could be made in the summer holidays. First wis grouse beatin’ at Capt. Farquarson’s estate at Invercauld near Braemar. Coupled tae that wis selling programmes at the Braemar Highland Gatherin’ and after the beatin’, horseman for the stag stalkin’ season. Later at T. C. wi longer holidays I went to the Agricultural Farm in Edinburgh , studied growing crops of tatties and qualified as a ” potato inspecter “. You had to recognise aboot 150 variaties by lookin’ at the shoots. The test was to walk 25 paces through a crop, which covered 4 plants every step, number and list the non crop variaties and any diseases such as blackleg, eelworm etc. Twenty five paces at four plants is 100 plants so the percentages are easy to work oot. You would then go a few dreels ower toward the opposite diagonal corner and start another count. To be fair to the Fairmer your pace was a slow steady easy pace with no stops. We worked in pairs , with a different partner each year, and I was assigned tae Moray , Nairn an’ Inverness. The soil wis soft and sandy which suited Majestic, King Edward, Record [ a round tattie for the crisp industry ] and the Pentland range. I inspected “stock seed” which supplied the large English farms with new clean high yielding stock. After the tatties I was sent tae the Outer Hebridies tae dee cerial deficiency inspections. I was billited in Cregory. and covered North Uist, Benbecula an’ South Uist. I found the wily gail quite a challange as there are no fences on the Isles. Most of the cultivation is on the Machair and usually a path separated one crop from the next. Fortunately my maths, geometry and slide rule resolved many claims. I often found a croft had magically worked 15 acres oot o’ 10. Before I got back to the mainland I wis invited to a weddin’ in Loch Boisdale and it was some doo. Lasting three days. Eventually I got my car onto the ferry , but crossing the Minch was so rough I didn’t makk it tae Lewis at New Advocates Park for a cup tie. A bonus missed by a wonderful experience in the Isles. Wonderful beaches, striking lassies an’ uisqe beatha.

Siller came from fitba. I signed for Lewis United, The Shipbuilders, on a professional form and wis paid a good signin’ on fee an’ good bonuses when we won cup ties. So, I wis solvent. Lewis wis a great club when we played in blue an white wi Loui Gordon at the helm , bit went doonhill when John Mulgrew took ower and changed the colours tae green an white. Doonhill so much an’ belly up in 2017.    Dr Dixon [ rector ] winted me to play for the school and become boys vice captain, bit I wid hae tae give up professional fitba. That I cudnae dee. Something he never understood, so I wis made a prefect instead.

The best game I ever played wis in the Scottish Cup against Kilsyth Rangers, a feeder club for Glasgow Rangers. Efter the game they asked me to relocate tae Kilsyth and further my career. By this time I wis marriet, had a daughter an’ wis teaching at the Aberdeen Grammer School for boys, so I said no thanks.

The worst game I ever played wis at Pittodrie for a junior select against the wee Dons and I played like an aul’ wiffie.   So the best game was in Kilsyth seen by neen o’ my relations, freens or classmates and the worst game wis seen by abody, droves an’ droves o’ abody. I wis also picked for the Scottish Junior Team against Northern Ireland. Bit there is nae siller in teaching so I looked for a job that wid use my Mechanical Engineering qualification of A.M.I.Mech.E.  Which is an associate member of the institute of mechanical engineers. A qualification I worked on at Robert Gordons at the same time getting a teachers diploma with distinction at T.C.  A few months after I got my engineering degree the institute of mechanical engineers launched a monthly magazine and if you bought an annual subscription you became an  associate member of the institute of mechanical engineers. I never put my qualification on my business card.

I got a job wi Eutectic Welding Alloys, Feltham, London. My sales manager wis Bill Whitting and he stayed in Milngavie. Bill was dapper, very well dressed wi a scar on his cheek. After training in London, Bill came to Aberdeen to check me out and after watching me make a couple of calls anounced that I would niver makk a salesman and i should takk him back to the train station so he could return tae Glasgow. I drove into an earthmoving company in Bucksburn and said ” If you are so bloody good, show me. ” He picked up the kitcase and strode into the workshop in his bowler hat, black greatcoat with astrican collar and leather gloves. I followed, watched and absorbed every word. He sold a packet of 66 with a vertical up demonstration whilst singing the Blue Danube for welding rythm. I got my lesson and memorised it. Before he left for Glasgow he wrote on a scrap of paper ” smile  and be ENTHUSIASTIC ” and stuck it on my dashboard. My territory was from Dundee, up through the North East, all the Highlands and doon tae Argyll, bit nae Perthshire or the Trossachs.  I was out on a grass and tree area and had no idea of the performance of the other 130 salesmen in the U.K. For a year I smiled, was enthusiastic aboot welding rods, did my three demomstrations per day and got one and a half orders per day on my pad. Quarries, distilleries, earth movers, garages, glove factories, shipyards, I went intae them all, smiling and being enthusuastic. Boy o’ boy there is money in selling. I paid more in income tax that year than I earned gross at teaching. One day I got a letter from Peter Youdale [ general manager Eutectic ] to say I was salesman of the year for Eutectic U.K and would I get a haircut and a photo of Doris and I,  asap.