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Published by Richard on 2007/6/8 (1169 reads)
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Cissie Shearer is 78 years of age, having been born in Galston in 1915. Her father was a railwayman and came to work the winding engine at the former Birsieknowe Pit which was located within the enclosed grounds of the Royal Naval Arnaments Depot (RNAD) at Beith.

Cissie is the only surviving member of her family, having been pre-deceased by her sister and three brothers. She lives in the village of Gateside and apart from 10 years living in Glengarnock during the second world war, has always lived in the village which is dear to her heart. A past president of Beith Ladies Bowling Club and past vice-president of Gateside Rural, she is still active in both organisations today. Hers is a weel kent face in and around Beith and she prides herself that she can still do 'a good turn in a comic sketch.'

Her spriteliness and infectious enthusiasm is a credit to her years and her radiant good humour made the interview a happy and memorable experience.

This interview was carried out by Morna Thomson (15) and Richard Nimmo (16) members of Beith High Church Youth Group. They were accompanied by Sandy Dickson, Youth Group Leader. All of them thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of travelling with Cissie on this Gateside journey down memory lane.

I can clearly recall coming to live in Gateside in early childhood. I would be about three then and it wasnae quite in the village but up in the country where 'Sanmar' is now. A room and kitchen in one half of a cottage rented from farmer Gray of Overton of Broadstone.

Both my sister and I had been bought new matching coats and hats to come here, crushed strawberry colour. It was the time of Bob Marshall's mother and father's wedding. Aye, auld Geordie Marshall, well he wisnae auld then. He was a character. There was great excitement in the village and much jollification. Somebody was throwing lighted paper up in the air, probably instead of fireworks, and one came down and scorched my new coat. That was it christened! My mother didnae let me forget that in a hurry.

Folk wouldnae believe it now, but I was a wee bit timorous, always quiet and shy, but school then was quite strict. I always remember one girl in our class. A bit cheekier than the rest of us. She had on a one button cardigan, with the button missing and the headmaster told her to have this button put on. She pointed out indignantly, 'please sir, your jaiket's torn.' He checked and saw that she was right, so he took it off and made her sew it there and then. I dare say that wouldn't happen nowadays!

The game which was popular with the girls was peevers. You would mark out beds' with chalk and you used a round piece of wood or marble and pushed it with your foot while standing on one leg and tried to go through the beds without touching the lines. If the peever went on a line or you put your foot down then you were out and the next person got a shot. It was great fun.

We used to walk to Spier's School and take the short cut across the fields and then get a row because it wasted our shoes. In winter I've often seen the snow up to the tap of the dykes and we had to jump the dyke to get intae the field to walk. The snaw had blawn aff the fields ontae the road. Aye, these are some of my memories as a child.

I recall my father going from the winding engine job at the Birsieknowe pit to the steelwork at Glengarnock. I also remember that he got paid off from the steelworks for quite a long time. During this time he managed to get a job at a quarry in Arran. I mind my sister and I, whilst in Beith at our cookery classes in the Academy, having to cash a postal order for fifteen shillings (75 pence today) for our mother, sent by dad from Arran. Mind you, fifteen shillings, that wisnae much to keep a house, but it was all he could send for he had just newly started.

One day a man in a hard hat and all dressed up came to our door asking where Joe Boyes lived. Mother told him he was working in Arran. He said, 'Give me paper, pen and ink. I have a job for him at Glengarnock. I'm looking for a good worker and I know he is a good worker.'
Dad was home from Arran as soon as he received this letter. He took a great pride in his work. On his long turn on, from early Saturday through to Sunday morning, we used to walk down with what he had to eat for it was too long to carry a piece working such long shifts. It was great to see the engine house. It would be shining with the big engine going in and out.

The young ones today really don't know anything. Everything is laid on. They don't know how lucky they are. You don't know how hard it is to describe the poverty then compared to nowadays.

I can remember running home from school and saying quite excitedly 'we've all to get, you've to give me a line and we've all to get a parcel from the school.' I looked at my dad's face and I could see that he wisnae pleased. 'We're not at that stage yet,' he said. He wouldnae accept it. It was just beyond his understanding and pride. The very idea of it appalled him and I thought it was a great thing. Maybe there wasnae much money in the house, but we were warned within an inch of our lives, we werenae to tell anybody. We hadnae to let on.

My mother went out to work in houses where she could. There was unemployment benefit, but it wisnae much. I remember askin' to go to highland dancin' lessons. It was to be six old pennies a week. Mother thought it would be okay, but when I approached my dad it was a different story. It wisnae the six pennies a week, but what was needed afterwards. So I learned my dancing from Mary Cummings up the road by watching what she had learned. That was the depression.

The summer was a great time. Much different from the early dark nights. You could be oot playin' a' day. Runnin' aboot in your barefeet, that was quite common then. We would play at jumpin' the Powgree Burn starting up there at the hall and jumpin' a' the way down to the Geilsland Road. You would get daring thinking that you could manage a big wide jump and you would fall in. You could play at this for hours. The girls had a bit we played at just before the Geilsland Burn called the Fairy Glen. I think some folk still call it that today. As the time got near for Beith fair, we got up stalls, this was us practisin' to win prizes. Our prizes were bits of glass. Home made fun.

In my young days there were clearly two highlights of the year. The Sunday school trip and Beith Fair. We would meet in the High Church and walk from there to the Low Station. You were always that keen to carry a flag, but by the time you had reached the other end of Beith you had passed it to somebody else.

My mother would always come with us. Most of the parents would come. In fact there were hundreds of us. The whole train was packed. It was always Saltcoats South Beach or Ardrossan. You would get a new pair of sandshoes. I remember, I must have been 13 or 14, getting my first pair of real shoes with heels and taking them with me to wear in Saltcoats because I thought I was really too big for sandshoes. It turned out that I couldnae walk with them on. And on the return I discovered that I had left them on the train! I had to wear the sandshoes for a long time before I got another pair of tidy shoes.

The music from the organs at Beith Fair could be heard out here at Gateside as if we needed a mindin'. I would be about six the first time I was taken. It was a real highlight what with the stalls, ghost train, helter skelter, the chair-a-planes and perhaps most memorable of all, the farm workers from all roon aboot with these wee birds, no' real, clipped ontae their bunnets, having won them as prizes. These were indeed happy times for the young folk.
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