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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 concluded the booklet’s first chapter, titled Longrow and Town Centre. This week comes the next chapter, titled Growing up in the Thirties.
Growing up in the Thirties
In the 1930s, nobody counted calories or worried about excessive sugar in fizzy drinks. They were there to be enjoyed if you had the pennies to buy them.
What we called the ‘Lemonade Factory’ was at Castleacres and trading as ‘Bengullion Aerated Waters’, it sold a wide range of soft drinks.
The lady who delivered their products was a well-known character by the name of Minnie MacFarlane, but always referred to as ‘Meenie Farlane’. She dressed as a man, complete with a gent’s soft hat which had seen better days. Meenie could take heavy crates on and off her lorry with seemingly no effort at all!
Next to the Lemonade Factory was the Campbeltown Laundry run by the Johnstone family. Not only did we have a laundry, we also had a mangle shop in Burnside Street where, for a small sum of money, one could wring out the worst of the water from the heavy items such as bedding.
Very few houses had washing machines in those days, so the ‘mangle solution’ must have been a blessing.
We had no medical surgery in the thirties and, as far as I can remember, we only had three doctors. They were Doctors: Brown, Peters and McCallum. The former two shared a consulting room at Joe Donald’s chemist shop and the latter had a consulting room at Revie’s chemist shop at 64 Longrow.
Incidentally, Dr Brown was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in rescuing wounded men from No Man’s Land in the First World War.
We only had three doctors, but we had six chemist shops in the town; four of them were in Longrow. They were: Gavin Thomson’s, The Medical Hall, Archie Revie’s and Mr Morrison’s. The others were ex-provost Archie MacEachran’s in Kirk Street and Joe Donald’s in Longrow South. The Medical Hall sounds very grand but it was actually a small shop owned by Mr Elliot.
We had three coal stores in Kinloch Road and one in Glebe Street. Coal was sold in one-hundredweight bags for around a couple of shillings per bag. Each four-wheeled car carried about 30 bags and was drawn by a single Clydesdale horse.
Although coal may have been cheap, lots of people had a struggle in the thirties to make ends meet. I remember seeing a ploy to get coal for nothing! The railway engines, employed on the Machrihanish Line, used to stop just outside Kintyre Park to fill up with water. We saw young men, with shopping bags, armed with small stones which they started to throw at the railway engine. The railway crew retaliated with small pieces of coal, which they hurled at their ‘attackers’ who then promptly filled their bags with the missiles and took to their heels.
No one appeared to be hurt and we youngsters stayed safe in our hiding place until the action was over. Looking back on it, I’m sure the two men on the engine were sympathetic and regarded it as a bit of fun.
There were quite a few characters in the town, but the best known was Charlie Greenwood. He was a tramp in a long ragged black coat tied at the waist with a thin piece of rope. He also had a long black beard and obviously hadn’t seen soap or water for many years.
He sometimes carried a very large stick, but, despite this, he was quite harmless.
During the war, he was challenged one night by a guard saying: ‘Who goes there?’ to which Charlie replied: ‘Mahone’ – the name of an infamous murderer from the past!
The following day, Charlie was taken to the mental asylum in Lochgilphead for his own safety, but I can’t confirm the accuracy of this story since I was overseas at the time.
Another character was Brass Broon (no relation!). Brass, a well-known poacher, wore a large, long coat which was said to have a number of very deep pockets in hold his haul of dead rabbits.
Sam Boo (I don’t know his proper name) was another gent of no fixed abode, but he was certainly cleaner and a bit tidier than Charlie Greenwood. I remember seeing Sam buying a large currant stone from Ronnie MacSporran, the baker.
As soon as he left the shop, he began to pick out the currants and proceed to eat them. As soon as they were finished, he threw away the rest of the scone and went on his weary way.