Stanley Memories

Jim, I enjoyed your website.  First time I've seen the layout.  I grew up in our village being a 1948 born kid.  I went to our village primary. I remember one of our teacher's Miss McIntosh.  How she used to rap my knuckles with the ruler when I was up to mischief in the class.  She was a great character and I met her by chance several times when I had left the village and caught up with village tales.  My family lived at Summerhill Cottage on the Perth Road.  It was a tied house and the old man, Ernie, was the gardener/handyman for the McDonald's who had the "big hoose". For a few years we also stayed in Murray Place in a top flat. My mother was Maureen Taylor who used to take the village Guides. Money was scarce in those days with the old man poaching salmon and ferreting for rabbits to make extra cash for the family. I was regularly dragged out to keep watch while he got up to his antics but enjoyed every minute.  It seems so long ago now.  My grandparent's were the Taylor's who were in the mill garden house.  Old Davie Taylor, my grandfather, told me he used to harness up his "garron"  and with the cart loaded with mill garden produce head off to the Dundee shops.  Quite a journey before the car came along.  When he passed away my Uncle John was the gardener for the mill and he also did the night watchman  job at the gate house for the mill near the end of its working life.  I remember going every weekend to Ballathie, where my other grandparents lived. the Murray's.  Every Saturday we would get McLennan's bus at the Cross.  Old Jock, the driver, used to wait on the Taylor's if we were late and give us a row.  When we got home on Saturday night the Haggart's, who had the shop opposite the Co-op, used to keep it open so we could spend the half crowns we had been given by our Gran on comics.  Great days.  I used to do the tattie howkin' at the Baxter's farm on the road to Luncarty every year.  I worked for Willie Baxter many times, bringing in the harvests and later labouring work in the fields with his brother and Ian.  The Baxter's were good to us and I owe them a lot for teaching me what an honest day's work was.  Willie used to often drop off a bag of spuds at our house telling my mum it was for the kids when times were hard. He wouldn't take anything for them.  I have lived in Musselburgh, East Lothian now for most of my life.  I did 30 years in the Edinburgh City Police, mostly based in Leith.  I just retired this May.  Once again enjoyed reading your information.  Take care.  There's no many like the Stanley folk.   

Les Taylor 27th December 2006


I read Gordon Howie’s bee story with a smile. I remember when I was about 10 in the late fifties when Bob Donaldson the roadman was called out to our house in the Perth Road. We couldn’t get into the house for a swarm of bees which had attached themselves to the tree bough which was right at our front door. There was “hunners” of them. A massive ball. It was a late summers night. Bob arrived and said ”dinnae be scared laddie, they’ll no harm ye. Come here and hold the bag”. Not wanting to show I was scared I took the sack and watched Bob scoop the bees into the sack after smoking them. I dropped the sack and bolted with Bob laughing. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. He threw the bag over his back and walked away with the bees back to the village. A real countryman.

Old Angelo at the chippie gets mentioned a lot. I remember him coming to Ballathie on his motorbike and sidecar. The sidecar had the urns with ice cream. It was like Xmas when he came and he always got a cup of tea from my Gran and blethered for ages. Years later I attended a call in Leith where a flat had been broken into. The two young lads were still inside raking through the house. The occupier had met us in the street in a terrified state and gave his name as Cura. Not spending too much time on the preliminaries I quickly asked him if he was one of the Stanley Cura’s. He replied ,”my granddad lived there”. So I shouted to him in good Stanley fashion “ stand aside we’ll get them for your granddad”. With the bad guys duly dispatched to the nick I returned to this lad who was still standing in the street scratching his head. I had a long chat with him telling him stories about the Stanley chippie. We had a good laugh about old Angelo. He was a great character.  There were other funny good tales about Stanley folk I met in Leith over the years. I always spent time with them when I could. 

Les Taylor 30th December 2006


Jim,   Just a few more.  I remember as a wee lad in our County Place gang. Jacqueline Adamson (tomboy), Ian Wells, and Roddy Lynch.  We were really young but used to play ‘kick the can’ for hours and build gang huts in the woods above the Tay .  I do remember them as good memories. I had family problems which meant I lost touch with these pals but do remember them as good pals at that time of my life. 

I saw a photo of Fiona McConnell in your website which made me remember when I stayed at Murray Place . I used to go to ‘Bendall’s’ for the papers and ‘Jimmy Hancock’s ‘for our messages’.   Old Jimmy was a character and used to ask me for any silver thruppenies cos these were real silver and he would put them in a jar for his retirement days he would say.  My old man made up a bike out of old bikes and put new cable brakes on it.  The holes left by the old leaver brakes meant that it whistled in the wind and Jimmy Hancock said it was a special bike because it meant I could play a tune as I cycled.   I remember him standing in Store Street watching me cycle up and down with me proud as punch at the tender age of 12.  Great characters these Store Street folk.  I used to play table tennis in the McConnell’s house. Fiona, Billy and their dad and me.  Great fun. 

I used to go up to the Tofts and spent many a day with pal Willie Burns.  Did we have an egg collection!   We used to go for miles to get nests all so environmentally wrong now but great fun.  We used to go to ‘King’s Myre’ and fight the swans to get their eggs.  I nearly drowned there in the mud but then that’s what us country folk did, climbed trees and did country things.  I took a jackdaw chick home one day because I heard I could get it to talk and was ‘skelped’ by my old man and told to take it back to ‘craw buts’ on one of those days. I went all the way back and put it back in the nest.  Willie and me were shot at by a wild gamekeeper on our egg collecting adventures.  We ran for what seemed liked miles and worried about the ‘polis’ for days.  All great fun.

All the best to all

Les Taylor 8th September 2007


Jim, I wonder if anyone remembers the circus that came to  Stanley one year and set up shop at the ‘wrecks’, up the Airntully Road.  I remember going up with my brother and sister to the smallest marquee in the world.  About 50 of us squeezed in to watch a few acts, the same horse and small elephant over and over again.  It must have been about the time when circus life was on the decline but we still all had a great time.

I remember the year that swine fever hit the countryside and watching the lorries taking pig corpses away from the Boyce’s piggery.  I was pals with Bobby Boyce at that time and I know it was a bad time for his family.  We used to play ‘chicken’ up at the piggery daring each other as to how long we could hold the single wire electric fences.  A lot different to watching TV.  We were a hardy lot in Stanley. My family were close to the Reids who had the smallholding up the Airntully Road.  We were like cousins. Jimmy Reid used to box and would turn up at school with his black eyes after the tussles he would get into in the ring. Jimmy and me went up to the Stanley Hotel one year where the Hudson Bay Company used to come after placing an advert in the P.A. looking for folk to emigrate to Canada.  I was too in awe of the move but Jimmy took the offer and moved to one of the most northern outposts they had in Ontario.  He is now happily married with kids and took his helicopter pilots licence out there.  It’s strange because I now have family out there in Ontario and go over every two years.  I sometimes think I should have taken the bait and gone over.  It’s a great country and the Scots are always so welcomed.   I just liked Scotland too much. 

I’m sure the readers will always remember the ‘tatty howkin’.  We always went to the Baxters.  I’m sure memories of the ‘double diggers’ must bring back nightmares.  As kids we would do the ‘half bit’ then graduate onto the ‘full bit’.  The ‘double diggers’ churned out a lot of spuds and it was hard graft.  I can remember getting 21 shillings for a ‘full bit’ which we thought was a fortune.  It paid for our school clothes.  We had great ‘sing songs’ in the tractor trailer coming back at nights.  I had been at Willie Baxter’s ‘tattie pickin’ so many year that I was allowed to drive the tractor and empty the baskets for many years.  Remember how we used to let the tractor run itself in the drills at a slow speed.  These grey Massey Fergusons and then the great ones, the Fordson Majors.  I know the farming machinery has got a lot more sophisticated now but these were great machines.  Old John Baxter used to like his ‘dram’ and was a cantankerous old ‘b-----d’ at the best of times.  For some reason we always got on well and we did the ‘tattie pits’ together which had to be just right.  One day John disappeared and Willie gave me a roastin because I hadn’t told him he was away. John had flung a sheep in the back of his car, taken it to Perth where he had sold it for butcher meat to buy his favoured whisky bottles. Great times.   I had good memories of that farm with bringing in the bales, ‘tattie pickin’, herding the cattle and stone lifting.  It was all before I was 20.  It certainly gave me an understanding of what ‘graft’ was for my later life. 

Just a few more thoughts Jim.

 Les Taylor 1st October 2007

Just a few more late at night thoughts.

Having been a City slicker in Edinburgh now for over 35 years I identified myself with the Port of Leith.  The Leith folk were straight talkers, didn’t take life too seriously and their community spirit reminded me of Stanley folk. Caught up in City life I used to often wonder at how far removed it all was from ‘country life’ and Stanley. However, the lessons learned from our village and our ability to get on with things ourselves because we just had to, have no doubt stood us all in good stead for the lives we all later had.  It’s amazing to see where many of your readers have ended up, so many doing the village proud.   I’m sure lots of us would have liked to still be living in Stanley but ‘needs must’ and many of us had to move to get work.  I ended up working in the Foyers tunnel where the ‘Hydro Electric’ made the tunnel down to Loch Ness, then moved to Scunthorpe of all places where I did my apprenticeship in the ‘blast furnaces’.  I had a good few years there where its Scots and Irish community were great.  British Steel were showing signs of major problems and my ‘cockney’ boss who looked after us Scots and is still a good mate, told me to get out of Steel and get another job.  It was a big shock to me as the money was great but I took his advice and moved back to Scotland.  Edinburgh had always been good to me so I ended up there in the police having always wanted to do something about the ‘bad guys’.  Years before, I had been critically injured after being knocked out by a ‘blow’ from an iron bar in an assault and robbery on me in an Inverness street, dragged into a grave yard unconscious and left for dead. The guy who did it had known I had three pays on me from the Foyers tunnel and had followed me on my way home to my hotel.  He got 7 years for attempted murder when he was caught by my shift, my ex Welsh miner and Irish lad mates who had gone looking for him and had handed him over to the police in a bruised bundle.  I took a few years to become ‘normal’ again due to the fracture to my skull and memory problems but I never gave up and regained full health about 2 years later. This spurred me on and when my engineering ambitions were thwarted by British Steel I knew what I needed to do and joined the Edinburgh City Police.  Stanley always gave me that fair minded approach to things with a ‘never give up’ attitude and always made me want to ‘do it right for the decent folk’.  I think it gave us all a good standing in life as we all were conscious of our village, not wanting to be the latest gossip.  The Mill, farm and estate workers all had a hard life as did all who lived there.  We all had to work hard to get a wage and knew what the value of cash was.  The school, church, shopkeepers, publicans and local farms all made us what we are.

 It was years later when at the age of 40 I had my ‘dam’ tonsils out which went all wrong and having lost my voice totally because of a surgical mistake I found myself ‘on the sick’ for 3 months.  I was OK but just couldn’t speak which was good news for my wife and kids.  My wife got so fed up with me she bought me a fishing rod and told me to get out of the house.  I started fishing again and it all came back.  My old man’s art for Salmon fishing on the Tay, Geordie Stewart’s knowledge, ‘Jock’ Townsley’s ability to make hazel rods and his many chats on the riverbank with me and my old man, the ‘Black Doctor’, a consultant from Harley Street who used to have breakfast with us at Summerhill Cottage at his insistence and let us fish free when he had a permit for the Tay and all those great Stanley fishers whose angling tales will go unknown.  They were great memories.  There was a 46 lb salmon one night which had to remain a secret as it was illegally taken, weighed in front of an admiring crowd at a famous hotel in the county with suitable remuneration given. What a night that was, it took us 1 ½ hrs to land it. It all came back and I never looked back with my Stanley experiences enabling me to have many memorable border fishing nights.  Memories like being caught by my Uncle ‘Jock’ Taylor’ stealing apples from the mill gardens with a bunch of Stanley lads will always be there.

Les Taylor

5th November 2007 

Hi Jim, I hope you are keeping well and wish you all the best for 2012.  My Goodness the years just shoot past.  I have a young lass who works as a temporary member of staff at my work from Stanley who is a joy to talk to as she tells me all the stories about the snow, buses and the village.  She is so outgoing and has all the modern qualifications which "get you on" it is good to hear her talk.  When I think back things like college, university, engineering courses, apprentices were like 'Mars' to a lot of us Stanley kids.  It's good to hear some of this generation are doing it.  Yeah we can glorify the Mill Work but it was hard going and poor wages.  There was not much else about and I know all the Stanley lads and lasses worked the harvests such as the 'tatties', berries, hay, and whatever the local farmer could give us.  Petrie's Currie's, Baxter's and many more saved the day.  I can honestly say that Willie Baxter and his wild brother John from Gowrie Farm made me what I am today.  God we did the 'tatties', the field clearing of nettles and boulders, the cattle, the 'neeps', the 'neep' thinning, the hay, the harvester days and yes we even got paid as kids to kill the rats, rabbits and mice when the hay cutting machine chased them out as we were going in along line with clubs with nails.  It was all 'guid' fun and so different now.  Memories of Bradley Thomas down at the Linn netting station which was Burnmouth where he gave me a chance to work with him and him being a legend Tay Salmon Fishery guy.  To have done fishing with Geordie Stewart the Tay Boatman and boxer legend was another of my highs as I'm sure Geordie remembers that night with Ernie's laddie McElroy and a few others from the village.  All a long time ago but great fun. Hunting with ferrets, snares and nets to catch rabbits for money and poaching for salmon to get cash when money was in the depression years.  Sniggering, netting, ferreting, trawling, tracking, and all that stuff I could still do.  I still know a rats track, a foxes mess, a hare 'cowpin doon', a sea trout cruising and how to set a 'gin trap', a snare etc.  Oh how us City slickers have changed.  Anyway all the best and next year will be the best ever.  St Johnstone for the cup! 

Les Taylor

9th January 2012