08 October 2014
Colin Black recalls the fun of family holidays in 1960s Fife. ...
When I was running about in short trousers, oh, 55 years or so ago, like most other hard working families there was no money for holidays. Luckily, my father’s sister Kate lived in a big house in Windygates, in the Kingdom of Fife.
Her husband Bill worked for Cameron Bridge distillery and the house came with the job. We usually had a week up there in the summer when the building trade, where my father worked as a labourer, closed down for the Glasgow Fair holidays.
The journey there meant a trip on a train (a steam train of course) and I always hoped we’d get a compartment to ourselves. If we had to share a compartment it would mean best behaviour all the way. As we got nearer the Forth Bridge my brother and I got our pennies ready to throw out of the carriage window into the water below. There must be a treasure trove of copper coins in the water below that bridge because of the urban myth, toss a coin into the Forth for luck.
I never realised it then, but the lifestyle my Uncle Bill and Auntie Kate had was as near to the ‘good life’ as you could get.
There was a big garden behind the house where they kept chickens and grew vegetables and fruit. Nowadays we’d never think about eating strawberries from a supermarket without washing them first but I never remember being ill back then, despite helping myself to any ripe gooseberries and strawberries that took my fancy.
THE HOLIDAY HOUSE
The big house was a detached three-storey sandstone building and had no electric lights when we first had our holidays there. Coming from a modern house in Glasgow it was strange to wait for somebody to light the gas mantles if we came back after dark from a day out.
In between visits to my father’s family we were left to our own devices, sometimes Auntie Kate’s son would take me on the pillion of his motorbike. The house was only twenty feet from a railway branch line, so the path up to the village was just wide enough for the motorbike. With a hedge on one side and a railway sleeper fence on the other, it seemed to me we were flying up that narrow path.
A mile or so along the riverside was East Meetings, a smallholding where my father had grown up. One of the highlights of my holiday was a visit there to see the biggest pig I’ve ever seen, although we were always warned to keep our hands out the pen or she would bite them.
There was a big field just along from my auntie’s house where they sometimes held a gymkhana, as well as the horses there were side show stalls that were of more interest to small boys.
Everybody knows Scotland can be wet, but all my memories of these holidays are that the summers were always warmer. The beaches of white sand on the west coast of Scotland are a match for any in the world. Or if you want a scenic view there are mountains in abundance and you don’t have to climb very far to get your heart and senses pumping.
When my two boys were small we holidayed in the big resorts in England with our caravan and now the boys are adults the caravan is sited an hour away from the house. My wife and I like nothing better on a Saturday morning than loading the car and getting away to the hills for the weekend.
Originally published October 2014, reviewed May 2020.