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Published by Richard on 2007/6/8 (1351 reads)
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71 years of age, Alex Sanderson, ever bright and cheerful, was born in Barrmill on 24 March 1922. He attended Greenhills School between 1927 and 1936. For most of his working life Alex was a Cabinetmaker in Beith, a skill which he still employs in his spare time. Join Alex as he takes us on a fascinating journey down memory lane from Burns to Burma and inevitably back to Barrmill - a great wee place!

The village of Barrmill, you know it was a great wee village. Everybody was very friendly. There would be 300 to 350 folk in the village during my schooldays. It was quite a thriving wee place. Lots going on. When I was young the quarries were all working. There were three of them all on the road up to the school.

Greenhills School was situated on the top of a hill about a mile outside Barrmill on the Lugton Road. I especially remember the long hot summers of my boyhood. Well, it always seemed that way to me. We used to go to school with our barefeet. It was really great as a young lad out there - great countryside. We used to go wandering in the byways at dinner time away out over the fields, looking for Peewits eggs and other birds' nests. I can see it now as I think back. Just great!

And of course in the winter there were long spells of frost, when we went away over the fields again, but this time you slid on the ponds having a rare time. Mind you, we had our shoes on in the winter! We enjoyed it so much that sometimes we forgot to go back to school in the afternoon. I suppose we just chose not to go back, it was such good fun. Oh, we used to get a telling down, but I suppose the teachers just accepted that you were in the country and you led a country life.

There were four classrooms and a workroom where we did things like music and technical subjects. In my day all the classrooms had open coalfires. One of my jobs, and I really loved it, was to bring in the coal and mend the fire. And later on, once they got a coalfired boiler system, I also helped to stoke the boiler. It was great fun, you know. The Headmaster was a Mr Nicol who lived down the Dalry Road in Beith. There was also a Miss Weir, Miss Robertson and a young teacher - Miss McKechran. We were staying in the station house by this time. This house was luxury for us. It had two bedrooms and a livingroom. You see most of the houses in Barrmill at that time were room and kitchen.

The house I was born in was a room and kitchen and there were eight of us in it, six of a family and my mother and father. There were two beds in the livingroom, what they called hole-in-the-wall beds and there were about 4 of us put to bed at a time in these hole-in-the-wall beds, two at the top and two at the bottom. And of course there was the coal fire in the livingroom. There was no such thing as a kitchen. There was what they called a scullery. Not much room there, I can tell you. I always remember that in the summer time when we used to run about we used to get tar on our feet. Most of the kids ran about without shoes in the summer time. It was just the done thing. What you've got to remember that in these days, the summers were fantastic. We got up in the morning and the sun was there, and it was there when we went to bed at night. They couldn't get us to bed at night. And of course we had to get our feet washed in the scullery and they had to do them with margarine or butter to get the tar off before we went to our bed.

It was great to run about with our bare feet. Kids today wouldn't understand. But most of us when we came home from School to Barrmill made for the Dusk Water. We had a jeely piece and everyone flocked to the Dusk. When I was a wee boy where the Saw Mill is now was a Flour Mill. And the miller could dam the River and this created an area for us to swim in. All the kids went swimming there. So we spent most of our time from school coming out until bedtime playing around the Dusk. The young folk, as I recall, were a good bunch. I didn't even know there was such a thing as vandalism. Oh, there was the odd window broken because of the football, but there was no malice.

There was only the one pub at the centre of the village. It's still there yet, right enough. It was a Mr Stewart who was in it when I was a boy. The Barrmill Jolly Beggars started off in the hotel in 1944 as a friendly way for local men to meet and discuss literature in general and Burns in particular. And I'm delighted to say that it's still going strong fifty years later, even though the club now meets in the Eglinton Inn in Beith. In fact there was quite a few shops in Barrmill. It was really quite a thriving wee place. There was a Post Office and next to it there was a Draper's.

One of my memories is of the washhouses in the village. They were coalfired and there was one for each entry - they were communal. That was when you got your bath, when your mother was doing her washing. Once she was by with the washing that's when you got bathed with the water that was left. You'd go into the washhouse, get stripped off and get a good wash with warm water. One of the things we used to get up to as boys was to wait until someone was in the outside toilets or in the wash house and we'd run along the corrugated roofs and we'd hear the buddy shouting at us. It was great fun for us as kids. And in the scullery, there was very little room. I always remember that the fire had an arm which came over towards the fire and that was how the women made girdle scones and pancakes over the fire. Some of the houses also had primus stoves as I recall, because there was no gas in these days.

Folk were very friendly. There was never a locked door in these days. We lived in the station for years and everybody went in and out our house. In fact when they closed the railway to Kilwinning, before the Admiralty came on the scene, they ran a 'bus from Kilwinning into the station at Barrmill. The driver and the conductress used to go into our house and make their tea. We were never there, but the door was always open. It was just the way things were then, but it could never happen nowadays!
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