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Articles > Beith Reflections > Farmers Boy

Farmers Boy

Published by Richard on 2007/6/8 (1284 reads)
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Robert Boyd speaks in the true Ayrshire dialect of which he is so justly proud. Our linguistic heritage is spoken by most of the ordinary Ayrshire folk of Robert's time. However, it is somewhat eroded among the young, but what they speak is still recognisable as Scots, despite the best efforts of some misguided teachers. The native vernacular is something which is fundamental to our culture and this language has received an awakening in recent years and a much more deserved status and recognition. Hence in this interview we have tried to capture that distinctive vocabulary so that the many in Beith and District who know Robert, and recognise his own voice as they journey along the rural ways of one raised and steeped in the farming traditions of Beith. This interview was carried out on 23 November 1993

I was born at Drumbuie Farm, Beith on 7 February 1936. Drumbuie is situated on the Barrmill - Kilwinning Road about 1 mile south of Barrmill. I was the fourth son of James Boyd and Nettie Jack. I have brothers Tom and Jim, and sisters Anna and Ann. Sadly, I lost my brother Willie on 10 March 1984

I went to Greenhills Scule when I was five. Got hurled to the scule by car maist mornins until you were able to go by yourself. If it was a guid mornin' then you walked up by yourself. I would meet my cousin Tom at South Barr Farm, then into Barrmill Village, met all your pals there and made our way up the Greenhills Brae to the scule.

In the winter you still had to walk, unless it wis awfa, awfa coorse and ye'd probably get a day off. It wisnae often that you got a day off, because of the weather conditions. You used to have great times sledging in winter. There was a bit they called 'Grannies Hill' and we had great fun sledging there.

You'd maybe get twa bits o' stick and a few boards and you'd maybe get the runner off an old pram and nail it on the bottom of the sledge. Doon the hill you would go and it would be up and doon having the times of our life. I mind we made a harness wi' bits o' rope and you yoked the collie dug in and the dug run like blazes and you were sittin' on the sledge. You used to have great darts wi' that. Then you'd go upside down and end up soakin' wet and when you came in you got a beltin'. If your mither put her hand up for the carpet beater your were oot the door before she kent where you were.

You had all your wee quirks you got up to yin way or anither at scule. Play hide and seek. Play peever. That was where you made eight boxes on the road or playground wi' chalk or a stane and we played with an empty polish tin filled wae stanes or muck. You hopped along the boxes and straddled your legs.

We used to play leavel, oot an' in the shelter. Okay, sometimes we nearly got killed against the wa' runnin' intae it. Then the bell would go and you'd go back in and get mair lessons and you went away hame. You used to hiv this saying:

Oh, Greenhills Scule, it's a bonny wee scule
It's built wae bricks and plaister
But a' that's wrang wae the bonny wee scule
Is the baeldy heided maister


On ma road back hame a aye used to get a piece fae Auntie Elsie at South Barr and then got on doon the road.

In Barrmill Village at that time you had big families. And then there was all the landward area as well. So, you wur talkin', aye twenty, maybe twenty five in a class, but ah couldnae say exactly how mony there wid be. There were four classes in Greenhills Scule. As time went on ah wis never very fond o' the scule.

Ah yist tae plunk the scule noo and again. Ah didnae git on wi' a teacher at wan time. And ah suppose noo-a-days that will still happen. But ah didnae like this woman. Her name was Mrs Murray. And she was quite a stern buddy and ah jist didnae get on wi' her. So, sometimes I'd jist go tae the scule and wander aboot and eventually go back hame. But ah don't think it did me ony herm. There wis certainly a lot o' weans at Greenhills scule. Ma faither even went there when he was a wean, so it's a fair age. Of course the scule building no longer exists. It was demolished not so long ago and a private dwelling stands on the site.

When I was young I used to keep rabbits. We bred them and we used to make rabbit hutches. Then you used to swap the rabbits wi' ither boys and you selt yin for a shilling, if you wur lucky.

We used to go to the Sunday school trips down to Ardrossan and you'd picnic on the sands. It wis a guid day oot wi' your spade and pail. You'd get a few shouts at and maybe a belt on the lug now and again. We used to have good days then.

I can remember running on the roads in the summer and the heat was so great that you could burst the tar bubbles wi' yir feet. Now, I've done that wi' my barefeet in ma young days, but whither we jist havenae time tae be doin' they things noo, ah don't know. Ye tend tae think that the weather his changed a lot owre the years. They aye say that as ye get aulder that the time goes by quicker and ah think that's right. At times there disnae seem tae be enough oors to help and assist wi' a' the things ye want tae do.

Ye always had yur wee chores on the farm. We used tae keep an awfa' lot of hens at Drumbuie. You wid feed the hens, sometimes in the mornin' although it was ma aulder brither's job tae look after them. You would take corn into the hens at night and make sure that they were properly shut up because we were aye bothered wi' a lot o' foxes. When ye hud a big family, ah suppose ye hadnae quite so mony chores. Ye maybe had mair time tae play. An' me being the youngest o' four, ah maybe got away wi' mair than whit the rest o' them widnae get away wi it
Drambuie wis a dairy farm. Basically a mixed farm. Ma faither an' mither went into it in 1922 when they married and they reared a big family and basically jist milked some cows and kept some hens. We never had ony sheep that I can recall. But the cows all used to be milked by hand. The milk was carried oot o' the byre and put into cans after cooling and it went away every mornin'. It was the old fashioned water cooler that we used to cool the milk.

You timmed the milk in the tub at the top and it run doon ower the cooler like a roller coaster and then oot through the siv to the top o' the can. They talk aboot hygenic conditions, but we're a' still here the day. It was jist cooled that same way, oot through a siv. with a piece of muslin or whatever at the top o' the can.

You used to get the cream off the can for your parritch in the mornin'. Aye, ye had your parritch and your ham and eggs every mornin'. If ye didnae eat it, you would never dae, ye ken. But I quite enjoyed doing that and then getting away to the scule, hame at night and get on wae ony wee jobs ye had tae dae.

I finished schule when I was fourteen. Your ambition was always to get left the schule. It was great to be left the schule. After you'd left the scule, you had to up in the mornin' to be telt what you had to do and when you had to do it. You were now a working man and you had to be able to dae things.

We actually moved from Drumbuie in 1942. That was when the Ministry of Defence took ower all the groun' there. We moved to South Nettlehirst at that time. So I finished my scule years at Beith Academy but had to shift hoose when I was seven years old. South Nettlehirst was a wee bit bigger a farm, but still worked away in the main wi' the dairy. All the cattle and stock had to be moved to the new farm.

At that time the Ministry of Defence were paying 50 an acre for the ground which they took over. My father had to find a new farm for us by a certain date. At that time there were various farms on the market and my father went and looked at quite a few of them.

In fact at that time there were five farms which were taken over by the Ministry of Defence for them to establish the Royal Naval Armaments Depot. Apart from ours there was Jacks o' the Ward; Crawfords o' the Scoup; Harpers o' the White Spot; and Blairs of the Bugstone, Boyd of the Bellcraig, Boyd of Drumbuie, Gillies of Gatend and a number of railworkers and farm workers who lived in Patrick Row which was located on Barkip Road near to what is now the main entrance to the RNAD Depot.

All in, there was something like 1200 acres taken in at the particular time. It was a big upheaval midstream in your life, but folk seemed to settle after that. These are the things that happen over which you have nae control.

In those days there was the local auctioneers in Kilmarnock - Thomas Donald & Sons. They were the sort of land agents for basically this area. And I suppose they were basically money lenders to the farmers in the district. And Donald's of Kilmarnock would carry an awfu' lot o' farming families for a long long time to get started.

With the joy of leavin' school I suppose you thought that it was great. You were on the beginnings of an adult life and that was an adventure. But you just got your orders from your faither in the mornin' and you were to be up and helping with the milkin' and feeding o' the cows and all the young stock had to be fed.

In those days all the fodder and the hay was loose so you had to roll if off the hay stacks and fork it into the cows. The byre had to be mucked out and that was a chore. You had to get a barrow fu' o' cows' dung and barrow it up a plank and tim it oot as far as you could get it.

Everybody had their wee jobs to do. Brither Tom did the milkin' and I sort of mucked the byres. Brither Willie, he wis the man that lucked efter the hens. There was a lot o' free range hens at that time. The eggs all had to be gaithered and be washed. Willie did that. There was always poultry hooses to muck oot and maybe some to repair.

You always had the seasonal work came in, like at the beginning o' the winter you would always have the midden to empty. Every day ye had to yoke the horse and fill the cairt wi' a grape and then take it oot tae the fields and scatter it. Ye got a wee rest walking oot and back. Aye, and you always looked forrit to your dinner. Like maist farm hooses it was a guid kitchen. You had a guid tuck in and sometime werenae that caring aboot startin' again. But, you had to go.

The working day would start at six o'clock in the morning until half past six at night. Then in your seasonal work you would have longer days. But you could always have a wee rest in between. You couldnae be on the go all the time.

One of the days that you always remembered was the thrashing mill day. That was when Davie Howitson of the Burnhouse was the contractor. He would be asked to come in and he would bring the thrashing mill into the farm yard.

Ah kin jist remember the steam engine, but jist and nae mair. It yist tae be that when the steam engine came in you had nae coal left in the coal bunker. It was all burned. But latterly in ma days it was a tractor, so the tractor came in wi' the big mill and the baler and they were set up next to the stacks o' corn and all your neighbours would come ower and you would hiv a great day thrashing.

I always remember that there used to be an Irishman came from Hughie Hair of Lugtonridge to the Mill and an awfa decent man he wis. The rats and mice used to hide in the bottom of the stacks. And we used to put a wire netting roundabout and hold it doon. And they never came oot until you lifted the last shave and then there could be twa dozen or three dozen, there seemed to be hunners o' them. And then they were all killed.

But there used to be a post that stood up in the middle o' the corn stack to hold the centre of it up. And it would invariably be a heavy sleeper. So this post fell and it hit this auld Irish fellow fair on the heid. The rats were forgotten aboot that time, because the old fellow could have been killed. But he was okay, he was just knocked out with the post falling on top of him. Ah jist forget the man's name noo, but he wis a big decent buddy.

But rats were a bit of a problem aboot the farm. Aye, it was difficult, because there weren't effective and safe poisons then. I remember anither day when there was such a lot of rats aboot one day and there was a bundle of thorns in the wee field at the back o' the hoose. A wheen o' them all went into them. So, what we did was set it on fire. And oot they come again and the dogs and everybody was flying aboot and we killed so many and there was one of them ran right back into the fire and right oot through it and it was sizzling.

Aye, there was a great variety of work on a mixed farm. We used to put bags of manure on the auld cairt. And me being the wee yin, ah used to sit on the cairt wi' the shovel and your brithers walked back and forth across the park sowing the manure and you filled the sheet when they came forward.

Then you'd take the horse forward jist sae far so they kent the line to come up the next time. You used to walk for miles doin' this. They all do this with tractors now, but when you consider goin' into a field to start to plough the field, which you've got to walk all the furrows. You then sow it all with fertiliser and you walk all the furrows again and then you sow it all with grain and you walk all the furrows again and then you've to walk all the furrows again harrowing it two or three times up and across.

And, of course, there were always the animals aboot the cornfield. Ony animals that's in it get mesmerised. If you're cutting roon a field and then keep going roon and roon and the animal rins a wee bit and thinks it's getting oot. And then you don't normally get the fox scooting oot maybe until the last along wi' a few rabbits. There's always the wee mouse rinnin' aboot and you wreck it's nest and you think o' Burn's words:
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