25/07/2016
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Doon the watter to Rothesay - Scottish nostalgia

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Elizabeth Gillespie recalls happy holidays spent 'doon the watter' at Rothesay in the Forties.

I don’t remember the first time I was taken to the Isle of Bute, after all I was only eight months old. But like many other families, we visited Rothesay every year and stayed in a top floor flat in Ardbeg, which belonged to my great aunt Jean.

The flat in The Terrace overlooked the Bowling Green and had a large kitchen/dining room and a front room with bay windows. Both rooms had a curtained off area with a set-in double bed, and the front room also had space for a piano, bed settee and a couple of large armchairs positioned at the bay window.

My younger sister Lilias and I learned to recognise the ships coming from Wemyss Bay and Craigendoran by the number and colour of their funnels. The still steamer Waverley sported two red funnels, and I believe the Jeanie Deans had two yellow funnels.

Wall-mounted gas lamps lit both rooms and each day at dusk the lamplighter, carrying a long handled pole, walked along the road, lit each lamp individually then climbed the stairs of the tenement close and lit the small gas lights on the landings. I thought this was magic.

Aunt Jean always had homemade tablet or treacle toffee. I wonder where she got the sugar to make such tasty sweets for us, as sugar was rationed until 1953. As she worked as a companion help to the elderly, maybe they were generous with their coupons when they knew her great nieces were coming to stay.

At an early age I was allowed to walk to Wyndham Road to ‘Mary in the dairy’ carrying a white enamel can with lid. Mary would ladle milk from a massive churn into my can, milk from a herd of cows which probably hadn’t been tuberculin tested. I remember was a child walking the few miles from Ardbeg to Dicke’s farm near Ettrick Bay and being given milk to drink which was still warm from the cow. It wasn’t what I was used to and I struggled to finish it.

 

(Image copyright Tuck DB Postcards)

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