Down Memory Lane, October 16 2020

Duncan Brown has written a book, titled Boyhood Memories of the Wee Toon, about his childhood.
Duncan Brown has written a book, titled Boyhood Memories of the Wee Toon, about his childhood.

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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 booklet’s second chapter, titled Growing up in the Thirties. This week comes the first half of the next chapter, Anecdotes.

Anecdotes

We had lots of good quality grocer shops which were all kept very busy until the arrival of supermarkets. We also had seven butchers, ten bakers and six newsagents and six excellent ladies’ and gents’ outfitters.

MacNair’s outfitters at 47 Longrow employed three or four ladies as seamstresses. There were eight shoe shops and four or five shoe repairers.

Peter and Katy Taylor (brother and sister) had a busy millinery shop in Longrow South, but the business declined when ladies stopped wearing hats to church.

In addition to the ten bakery shops, we also had two scone shops; one in Burnside and one in Reform Square. There you could purchase freshly made scones or pancakes and also delicious homemade sweets called ‘Candy Balls’.

The Black Pudding Shop in Longrow South was surprisingly popular; it was run by the MacArthur family and always appeared to be very busy.

The six newsagents only sold daily papers. The sale of Sunday papers was the exclusive right of Sandy MacEachran, who had a very small grocery shop in Longrow. I often saw queues of people waiting for the Sunday papers to be delivered from Glasgow.

Throughout the thirties, the Campbeltown Gaelic choir, conductor Mr M G MacCallum, provided wonderful entertainment; they won the most prestigious award at the National Mòd, the Lovat and Tullibardine Shield, more times than any other choir. Their concerts in the Victoria Hall were always a sell-out.

We were very lucky having two most reliable local steamers: the Davaar and the Dalriada which provided a daily service for both cargo and passengers to Glasgow.

The Dalriada was said to have been the fastest single-screw vessel on the Clyde.

We had three very good Italian cafés in the town: Leo’s Royal Café in Hall Street, Umberto (Bertie) had a small café in Kirk Street, then a much larger one, the Mayfair, in Main Street.

Leo’s son, Alf, had the Locarno café in Longrow South. Leo’s nephew, Johnny Moscardini, was a famous Italian international footballer who spent two years here working in his uncle’s café. During his stay, he played a number of games for our local Pupils’ team.

The train to Machrihanish used to leave from the centre of Hall Street just opposite the Christian Institute. The story is told of a man who had just arrived off the steamer, and, seeing Leo standing at the door of his café, went over and enquired: ‘Can you please tell me where the station is for Machrihanish?’ to which Leo replied, with a wave of his arms: ‘Eet ees all around you.’

Leo’s son, Alf, was a very cheery fellow and if somebody asked him how he was, he always shouted in a loud voice: ‘Mighty fine!’

Leo and Bertie Grumoli were brothers and because they were Italians they were taken to the Isle of Man and confined there for the duration of the Second World War. Sons of the Grumoli families served in the British Forces and one of them, Italo, was killed at Arnhem.

Wylie’s Boat Yard was at the end of Hall Street where the government offices are now located. In 1936 they built a fishing boat for Skipper Meenan who called it the ‘Gratitude’. I was one in the large crowd who saw it being taken across the road to be launched down the slip-way beside the New Quay.

While crossing the road, there was almost a disaster as the boat tilted to one side! However, plenty strong men soon rectified the situation and it safely entered the water.

Incidentally, one of our ‘Old Pals’ (a local senior citizen group), Francis McWhirter, started his fishing career as a junior crew member of the ‘Gratitude’.

See next week’s Courier for more.

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