Memories of a Stanley Childhood by Ian Sime

 

At the age of 10 my father was promoted from Station Master at Grandtully to Station Master at Stanley - this was like going abroad to me.  I was the only one of school age in my family so I knew there were going to be lots of hard days in front of me and I was soon to find out. I thought to myself "keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut and all will be well." Oh well you know what old Rabbie said "the best laid plans of mice and men gae a' to hell" or something like that.   Things were working out just grand on the first day at school until the bell went.   The chap sitting behind me gave out a roar and flung the window cord which went round my neck.   I told him in no uncertain manner what my intentions were going to be - it as at this point I thought "you damn fool, you don't know anyone" but as things were to prove I was soon to find my first good pal - Jack Ford - in Stanley.   He came forward and said "I'll hold your bag."  I thanked him as we were brought up to remember our manners!  After one or two wild blows I landed one of my best - a right uppercut - my brother and I were taught to look after ourselves as we had two pairs of boxing gloves which were used by my sons in years to come.   After the fight I made a hasty retreat, got on my bike and home.   My father was sitting with me having our tea and he was eager to know the outcome of my first day at school.   After I told him nothing happened he informed me that he had been told a different story.   One of my father's friends, the local butcher - Jack Phillips - was passing when he saw the fight.   He waited to see the outcome and it was at that moment he said to himself "My God that's Archie's young lad."   He could hardly wait to get up to the station to inform my father of the day's outcome.   I thought the next time I'm in a fight I'll go round the back of the school - more privacy.

As time progressed my poaching skills were to prove rewarding.   This was wartime and food was scarce.   I kept the butcher well supplied with good healthy food and me with pocket money.   This work soon caught the eyes of the local lads and in no time I had several pals, one of them was the wild lad of the village -Kenny Paul.   He was always in fights with my new pal, Jack Ford, which gave me the chance to repay his kindness of holding his bag.   I've got to say Jack always came out the winner!   Also, I held his bag more times than he held mine.   The lads in the village who came to go poaching had to put the gloves on for a round or two so it became known in the village what the build up to the poaching involved.

After some time I landed a job three nights a week going into Perth with the local pig farmer Dick Boyce.   We had two buckets each and went up all the stairs in Ainslie Place and Hunters Crescent lifting pig swill.   The contents were of various flavours which came in handy when being shouted at by the tough lads.   Town boys are not so hard as those brought up in the country.   We got to be expert at guessing the range and when we thought it was OK they got two or three handfuls to share, that was followed by some of them getting rid of the contents of their "guts."   The farmer always wondered why Dave McInroy, Andy Duff and I always came home in the back of the lorry even in the cold winter nights.   Little did he know that was our time for a bit of sport!   Many a person was caught in a shower of "stuff."   The best one was one dark night as we came round the corner at the Three Brigs we saw this chap on his bike and caught him in the headlights.   He was a perfect target.   Dave caught him with a loaf, it was of a good age  so very hard!   All we saw was his tail light going over the fence!   Also one of our targets was the Cross at Stanley.   Any person still standing after we passed was a visitor, all the locals knew not to loiter.

As time went by Dave and I had many happy times.   One night after school we went on our usual adventures and landed down at Thistle Brig, a great place for canoeists as the River Tay gets a bit wild there.   Well, this night was to prove special.   We found a boat which had been washed down by heavy floods.   The front was broken but we thought we could sort it - no problem.   I said to Dave to come up to the Station after school as I had the very things to solve the trouble with the boat.   Dave and I set off with my father's saw, hammer and nails - most of them were slate nails with broad heads.   The railway goods shed was our target.   Inside was a railway sheet, hanging from the roof.   It was used for holding shavings which were used for packing.   I was the one to scramble up as far as I thought was needed and then I started to saw it as it was just like wood with all the tar.   As soon as I heard it rip I came down and we gave it a good pull, the result was perfect.   Dave remarked "it's a bit bulky, what are we going to do?"   I said if we jumped on it we could put it in one of the railway sacks - there were plenty of them lying about, the farmers sometimes hired them from LMS.   We put the sack through the frame of my bike, I cut a bit of railway rope and tied one end under Dave's bike seat and the other end onto my bike handlebars.   With the load safely aboard we set off.   Our journey took us through the village.   All was going well until we reached the Cross - who should be standing there but my father, Dave Shedden and Andy Christie, the village "copper".   I thought "what are we to do?   Och give them a wave."   Sure enough it did the trick and we were safely on our way.   After many nights of "expert" work we thought the time was right for us to get some oars.   Once again our wish was granted.   We were going to go up the river where we knew oars were stacked.   After tying two together with our rope we would throw them into the Tay and let them wash down on their own, but all was not to be.   The fishing authorities got wind of what was going on and they came out and lifted the lot!   Just as well. I had my doubts about our venture and as I couldn't swim the outcome didn't look to good.

Dave and my let down was soon in the past and we were on to something else.  This was to get Dave and I into a spot of bother with the Headmaster, Mr Hughes.  It was the time for lifting potatoes and Perth schools had time off to lift them but we didn't.  We thought "that's not good enough" so we had a chat with some of the lads from our class.  The outcome was we were to gather at the Cross which was the first pick up point for the transport.  Dave and I were the only Stanley boys, the rest had second thoughts.  I'm sure it was the sight of Mr Hughes giving them the belt in his usual manner that put the idea out of their heads.  The day was going great.  After dinner the gaffer c\me over to us and said "you two are not from Perth.  I've had the Stanley head teacher on the phone, some lad had let it slip about you - he said you can stay but God help you tomorrow."  Mr Hughes did keep his promise but we got our 11/- so it was worth it.

Once again the time came for more adventure, this time there were three.  A young lad, Fred Pirie came with us.  We went down the back of Stanley Mills where there was an old ruin which I think was caused by fire.  Also, there are steps going down to the Tay where a boat was always tied up.  Dave said "I bet you can't open that split link so we can have a bit of a sail."  Och it was no bother, a couple of good old stones and the job was done.  Well, we set out into the river - the Tay is quite fast at that spot.  We soon found ourselves in a bit of trouble.  Dave had one oar, Fred the other.  Well, the speed soon got the better of us.  Dave stared to push off the rocks but had to let go.  So there we there, going down the rough bit of the Tay with one oar.  Fred decided to try where Dave had failed and the result was the same.  No oars.  We could be in a bit of bother here.  The Tay takes a bend behind the Mill and we started to get battered of rocks on the side.  I got hold of a branch and held on and Dave and Fred got a old too.  We got out and tied the boat to a tree and thought no one had seen us so all was well!  Things were not as we thought.  One night I was eating chips at the Cross thinking what a great time we were having when without warning I received a lift off the end of the local copper's boot with his remarks ringing in my ears "you'll know what that's for."  I was quick to agree as I didn't fancy another one!

Time has moved on and I'm now 14 years of age.  My first job was on the farm.  I'd always wanted a horse but the farmer was to inform me I was too small so I started looking after the cattle, seven days a week, no time off 7am to 5pm.  After a while the farmer, D Y Petrie said "come with me, I've got something for you to see."  After a car run up to Braecock Farm he showed me this old mare, her name was Pride.  I'm sure an old horseman wouldn't have been keen but I thought she was the best thing on four legs! I was good to her and she to me and we got on well together.  I have always said be kind to beasts and they will respond to you.  After a while the day came to say goodbye to my trusty and true four legged friend as the farmer was giving her to a relation who was starting up in farming so I'll always remember that day as one of the saddest moments in my young life. 

Pride was replaced by Dick.  Dick and I knew each other from a previous experience.  Being the youngest on the farm it was my job to take any horse that was in need of new shoes to the smiddy which was quite a long way from Stanley.  I always got on the horses after we crossed the railway lines.  That's when I had a bit of bother as being rather small the best way to get mounted was to climb on the gate then on the horse.  Seems simple.  NO!  Dick must hve thought I was taking too long and moved off when I only had one leg over.  The result was I got a great help from gravity landing under the horse.  I was pretty observant and knew by the shape of my arm that nature never intended it to look like that!  I tied Dick to the gate and went over to where Gib (the farmer's son) was working.  I told him I was going home to see to my arm.  My father was never one for giving sympathy and after he had a look at my arm he said I was being a cissy and that there was nothing wrong!  To cut a long story short, this happened on Monday morning and on Thursday I visited the Doctor who tod me to go to Perth Royal Infirmary.  I had to get gas as my arm had set at a very unusual angle.  They worried for gangrene setting it and if the swelling got bad, to return.  That was on the Thursday and on the Monday I started work looking after cattle down near Stanley Mills and that was more trouble my dog and me got into.  One day it being very hot I fell fast asleep on a bench and my dog thought "what a good idea."  NO - I got a rude awakening by the Manager of the Mill and his gardener and they were a wee bit upset.  The cattle had strayed and were jumping all over the place.  The lawns didn't take too kindly to their treatment!  As I was leaving I was tempted to look over my shoulder and say "never mind Mr Hutton, I'm sure there will be no charge for the dung" but thought better of it and beat a hasty retreat.  My old dog had his tail between his legs.  I'm sure he felt guilty, poor little lad.

I moved on from working on the farm to work for David Fleming, potato merchant.  I was asked if I could drive - I replied I could!  The question never came up as to whether I had a licence - which I didn't and so I kept quiet.  After a while in my job I was driving all over - Dundee, Forfar and many other "foreign" towns.  However, I have to confess trouble landed on my lap.  One day I was driving down towards the A9 and just up from Newmill Cottages there's a corner.  Stanley Mills had workers from all over the area and there were many buses on the road a the time.  I saw the top of the bus so took evasive action by driving up on the bank but had to come down to avoid a culvert.  It was at this point we came into contact.  One of the clips holding down the canopy caught a strap, doing a little damage.  The driver said he would have to report it and told me to call into the police office in Stanley after my work.  Well as I've said I didn't have a licence so Bob Barron said he would go into Perth and get what I was short of so all was set for my visit to the "cop shop".  I had been in at the garage for oil and as it was just over the street I walked over to whatever awaited me.  The village bobby was one of the old brigade and told me he had been over to measure the road where the contact took place.  He has also measured the bus so all that he was after now was the width of my vehicle.  We went back over the road where it was.  I held the tape for him and he said "well lad you did well.  If you had stayed on the road you were eight inches short of getting passed."  I had to go back over with him so he could write down all the details.  First question was "you will have a licence?"  I said I did and gave him the one I got that day.  He took a good look and then handed it over saying "that's fine lad."  I forgot to mention I didn't have any 'L' plates so I'll always admire the local cops for their instant justice.

 

Ian Sime 26th April 2016