Down Memory Lane, September 25 2020

The photograph on the back of the booklet, taken in 1931, shows, from front to back: Duncan, aged six, his brother Daniel, aged eight, and their cousin Duncan, aged 11.
The photograph on the back of the booklet, taken in 1931, shows, from front to back: Duncan, aged six, his brother Daniel, aged eight, and their cousin Duncan, aged 11.

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Duncan Brown’s boyhood memories of the Wee Toon

The family of the late Duncan Brown has given the Courier permission to serialise his booklet, Boyhood Memories of the Wee Toon, in our Down Memory Lane pages.

The booklet – in which the former toy-shop proprietor reminisces about shops, industries and shares numerous anecdotes from his childhood – was printed and published just a couple of weeks before he died on August 11, aged 95.

Last week, we shared the first half of the booklet’s first chapter, titled Longrow and Town Centre, which we continue this week.

Longrow and Town Centre – part two

At the bottom of the Diamond Vault, Mr Hall, the painter, had his store at one side while at the right were the premises owned the MacDougall brothers, Malcolm, Hector and Peter, who were cart-wrights. This was a busy period for them as they were converting carts with wooden wheels to those with rubber inflatable tyre wheels.

We knew Hector and Peter who both played for our favourite football team, The Pupils. The other cart-wrights in the town were the MacLachlan family in Glebe Street and they too were very busy in the 1930s.

Next stop was ‘Cooper’s Close’ where we were fascinated watching the coopers making barrels; they were so quick and yet so skilful.

Armour, the plumber, was one of the busiest firms in the town and their workshops were situated across from where Kintyre Hire is now. To approach them, you had to climb a steep outside stair all made of wood.

Just inside were two workbenches side by side. At one of them sat Donald McKinven who was a coppersmith and next to him was Peter MacArthur, a tinsmith. Both were very nice men and skilled tradesmen.

Donald had both legs amputated in the First World War and travelled to and from work in a wheelchair. At the time, we wondered how he got up that steep wooden stair but decided it wouldn’t be polite to ask!

Next call would be at the cattle market, which at that time was held in the Albert Halls next to McNair’s coal store. When an auction was held, it was interesting to see the various animals being led into the ring and to listen to the patter of the auctioneers.

On the other side of the coal store was the net factory (now Nickel and Dime). Quite a number of girls were employed there, operating the many looms upstairs, while my uncle, Donald McInnes, was the engineer who serviced the looms and was also responsible for dyeing the nets with something called ‘Kutch’ which was from a place of that name in India.

Other men employed in the net factory were Willie Waterson, Donald McDonald (known as Wee Donald Twice) and ‘Crusoe’ Robertson.

From the net factory, it wasn’t far to the Old Quay, a great attraction for boys from all over the town – especially when fishing boats were landing their catches of herring.

On occasions, visits under the pier proved to be quite an adventure as clambering over the ‘skeigs’ (covered with wet seaweed) could result in returning home with visual evidence that you had been playing in forbidden territory!

See next week’s Courier for more.