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Articles > Bygones > Jenny Kerr

Jenny Kerr

Published by Richard on 2003/6/28 (934 reads)
I was born at Trearne Lodge, Beith. My mother was living there with her parents because my father was a Lieutenant in the Glasgow Highlanders, and was fighting in France during the first World War. My father's mother was Janet Stevenson of the Stevenson Furniture people, and her husband had come from the Borders where he'd worked as a chairmaker.

I was born at Trearne Lodge, Beith. My mother was living there with her parents because my father was a Lieutenant in the Glasgow Highlanders, and was fighting in France during the first World War. My father's mother was Janet Stevenson of the Stevenson Furniture people, and her husband had come from the Borders where he'd worked as a chairmaker. Robert Hall moved up here to get work in the Beith furniture factories. On the other side of my family, my grandfather David Glen was in service with the Ralston-Patrick Family at Trearne House and he had married the nursery maid, Janet Gibson from Clackmannan, who came to the family when Miss Isobel Ralston-Patrick was born. Trearne House had been built about 1870, almost on the site of an older Trearne House and Mr and Mrs Ralston-Patrick lived for some time in Burnhouse Manor until the house was ready for them. My grandparents were married in 1877 by which time Mr and Mrs Ralston-Patrick were living in the new Trearne House. The old house and St. Bridget's Chapel which was in that area were connected with Hessilhead Castle which goes back to the 13th century.

When my grandfather died, my grandmother lived alone in the lodge house at Trearne and because of this our family spent all our school holidays there and came to know the road from Gateside into Beith very well. Motor cars were scarce in those days. The one you saw most belonged to Doctor Robertson. It was a Ford car and I remember that the doctor sat very erect in the car. He wore a bowler hat and you could see this car approaching from Gateside village with this distinguished figure and that was an event for the day for us. The other forms of transport were farmers' gigs and working carts which were used to bring coals from the High Station out to Trearne and to take loads of wood down to the villagers. Eventually there was a 'bus service. It was called Blair's 'bus which ran from Beith via Lugton to Kilmarnock.

One 'bus came through Gateside about 10.45 am so the game was to catch that 'bus into Beith, get off at the Horseshoe, dash into Blackwood's and buy a pound of mince, dash to Crawford's and buy 3d worth of soft water biscuits and 3d worth of cookies, perhaps do one other message and hope to catch the 'bus which had turned up at the High Station, and was making its way back to Kilmarnock via Lugton. The Horseshoe is the junction of Mitchell Street, King's Road, Main Street and Wilson Street. I suspect that perhaps one of the several Beith blacksmith's shops would be there at one time. Nobody has been able to tell me this. There was a Fyfe's blacksmith's shop at the foot of New Street.

Beith used to be a busy wee town, although in earlier days there wasn't so much traffic and it went right through the Main Street. It wasn't a one way street in those days. Once the 'buses started to run between Ardrossan and Glasgow, when two double deckers met at Blackwood's, there wasn't much room for anything else, especially people. Occasionally the 'buses would scrape the masonry on the front of the shops. The shops were very good in the 1920-1940 period. Blackwood was always a popular butcher. There was Mitchell the Jeweller, Hamilton the Tobacconist, Mary Kerr the Draper and Miss White's was a very popular sweetie shop where the undertaker is now. Sweeties were very cheap. I was more aware of the Gatesides shops where you could get four things for 1d. You got sherbet dabs, liquorice straps, and wee caramels. They were good value. Even before that, there was a lady in Gateside who sold toffee. Her name was Mrs. Cooper.

On a Sunday we walked from Trearne into Beith to the Church. The service was at 12 noon to suit the farmers, who were supposed to have got all their work done and be free to attend the Church then. They travelled to Church in gigs, which were small horse drawn vehicles. They stabled their horses in the pends at the back of the Saracen and other inns. If you were lucky you might be offered a lift back home in a gig. But that was a somewhat frightening experience to people who weren't used to horses, because you were very high up and the thing only had two wheels, so it wasn't altogether a great treat to be taken home from Church in a gig. By about the mid 1920's some of the sons of the better off farmers would acquire a car. That was really something, because cars were few and far between.

When my grandmother died in 1936 that was the end of her life tenancy so we had to leave Trearne. I moved out of the area, but returned in 1947. On my return I stayed in part of the house at Gateside of Fulwoodhead where I stay now. Many local people knew this as 'The Hills' and enjoyed Mrs Wilson's lemonade there, when out for walks. I remember, as a girl of ten or twelve, hearing discussion between my parents and my grandmother about the positioning of the War Memorial on the top of the Bigholm Hill. I think the people of Beith wanted it there for sentimental reasons, because the Bigholm Road was a great courting walk for the young people of Beith and many of the men whose names were on the memorial would have walked the Bigholm Road. I remember visiting the War Memorial at a Chistmas holiday time when there was snow on the ground. I don't know what year the memorial was erected. I would presume it would be the early 1920's. In later years it was moved from Bigholm Hill to its present location down King's Road.

St. Inan's Chair overlooks my house. It is a cleft in the rocky face of Lochlands Hill. Legend has it that St Inan, who may have come from the Isle of Whithorn, preached to the assembled people from the chair on the hill. There was not a great population in the area at that time and the people were located not in Beith, but up on the top of the Bigholm near to what were the Beith water dams. The first settlements were in the heavily wooded areas around the dams where people were safe from attack and could get food from the land, and fish in the lochs. The Saints of old went where the people were, and they also tended to go where there had been worship of heathen Gods. It has been suggested that High Bogside Farm, which used to be called Bellsgrove, was really Baalsgrove and that fits in with the story of St. Inan going to where the pagan Saints were.

My earliest memories include coming from Paisley Gilmour Street Station to Beith Low Station down by Kilbirnie Loch. You either got a taxi or went on Crawford's Horse 'Bus which brought you up King's Road to the town. In 1920 the Glasgow - Ardrossan 'buses came on the scene and that made a big difference. It's great how times have changed, isn't it?

Jenny Kerr (76)

Interviewed by Ewan Duncan (15) and Sandy Bruce on 20 January 1994.

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