Mary's Story

Mary's Story

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Mary : born  1917

I was born in Main Street. Mearns village was made up of Main Street, Barrhead Road and the Cross, some houses on the main road and a few big houses: the bungalows came later.   There were three grocer’s shops: one was the Cooperative in Barrhead Road and another nearer the Cross on Barrhead Road was run by Mr Bowman. The other at the top of Main Street belonged to Mr Pollock, who was known to us as “Snowy” because of his white apron which was spotlessly clean.  In the middle of Main Street was a “Jenny a’-things” shop belonging to Mary Osborne: she sold everything from bundles of sticks to hairpins and jelly babies.  All sweets were loose in bottles, and there were no wrappers on chocolate.  Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate came in long bars for one penny each; they were in cardboard boxes and looked like gold to me.  There was the baker’s where you could go at 5 in the morning for lovely warm rolls.  There were two butchers and a draper’s shop run by Miss Polly Peterkin.  There was an ironmonger’s where we got paraffin oil for our lamps, and anything from farmers’ boots to china.

In Main Street we had a Marble Arch; there really was no arch but you went through an opening called a pen then through a close to houses at the back.  It was like a rabbit warren of houses. At the foot of the Main Street there was the Tea Pot Close: when I was young I never questioned why it was called that, but since then I have heard it was because the women took their pots and teapots to be filled by the spring water from the Tea Well at the foot of the Tea Well Brae.  

When I was five, I started at Mearns Primary School, which then was just the original building with Primary 1-3 downstairs and 4-6 upstairs.  There was a special class with about three steps up to it: that was what we called 3rd Year, and you had to be very clever t o get into that class.  I left at 14 in my second year.  I enjoyed school on the whole.  We had a building outwith the main building where we went for cookery lessons: I enjoyed that.  We always called that building the Cookery Room.  It was there that the janitor’s wife made a great big boiler of soup which was sold for a penny a bowl with a slice of bread: there were no school dinners.  Science was also taught there.  We had a school choir and it won a cup at the Greenock Festival.  The boys had their football and the girls had hockey, so we had plenty of recreation.

I went to the original Church on the site of the present Church.  I went to the Sunday School there and we had a Junior Choir.  We used to do operettas like “Princess Chrysanthemum”.  As we had no TV or radio when  I was young, going to the Church Hall to practise our songs was great: I loved all that.  My happiest time was when I joined the Brownies.

We’re the Brownies.  Here’s our aim:
Lend a hand and play the game.

I felt I was very special when I was dressed in my uniform, which then was a straw hat with an elastic under our chin to keep it on, the dress much the same until they changed it a few years ago, and a big yellow tie knotted under our chin.  We played games and did all the tests you do now.  Camp fire songs were a must: we sang our hearts out.  Some of them you still sing to this day.  We also put on concerts where we did little plays, and I remember singing a solo.  I moved up to become a sixer of Gnomes, then we had a wand with a figure on top the shape of a gnome; we danced round the toadstool singing our different themes.  Mine was:

We’re the happy little Gnomes,
Helping Mothers in our homes.

We closed by singing

Day is done, gone the sun
From the Earth, from the sea, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest.  God is nigh.
Brownies vanish.!

We had soirees where the Junior Choir sang, and there were some recitations from those who went to elocution lessons.  There was a break for tea, and we got a bag of buns from the local baker’s.  There was always a Paris Bun, a fruit cake and an icing cake; you always took home what you couldn’t eat.  When leaving the soiree everyone got an apple or an orange going out the door – that was a tradition.

We also had the Band of Hope on a Friday evening, where we got lantern shows: that was a highlight of our week.  You got a penny to spend, and you bought as much as you could for a penny: something that lasted.

Then the great occasion was the Sunday School trip: no coach trips then! Mary Osborne’s shop I mentioned always sold the tinnies for the Sunday School trip and sandshoes near the front hanging out at the door.  It was horses and carts and buggies: they used to be lined up in the Main Street, and when you got older you always looked for the best dressed horse as the farmers used always to decorate the horses’ harness with flowers, and their tails were brushed up with ribbons tied on them.  So when we all got settled in our cart we set off singing all the choruses we knew all the way there.  Also at the trip we got a bag of the usual buns and cakes and milk to drink (no juice).  We had prizes for races, and the drivers of the carts and the gentlemen Sunday School teachers had a tug-of-war.  It was always a farm we went to, and the further away the farm was the better we liked it.  On our return home we did as much if not more loud singing, and it was always a very happy day.

As you know the last thing they took away from Mearns was the Cross.  It is very sad indeed to see that superstore built over the Cross.  As you can see from pictures Mearns was a lovely village, now gone.  There were also the outlying hamlets like Hazelden where there used to be a lace work up near Mearnskirk Hospital.  There was a row of houses called Thimble Ha’, where there are now private houses with a name nothing like the original.  Thimble Ha’ had its characters.  Netherplace factory is still there but the houses are all gone except the ones built lately.  And of course Tofts used to have the work before it moved to Netherplace; the gas works was also there.  You may have seen the old house Green Side at the corner of Greenlaw Road and Crookfur Road: that used to be the Manager’s house of the works and is one part of old Mearns that is left.  It’s a grandson of the manager that still lives there.  There were also two tearooms.

Games were the usual skipping and ball games, peever and boy’s girds, kick the can.

One yearly highlight was the cattle show.  It was held in Crookfur playing field.  The farmers all brought their horses, cows and hens to be judged.  Then there was always a gymkhana in the afternoon.  In the evening there was a fair – the shows as we called them – great excitement.

There used to be a small school up at Loganswell with one teacher: it was for children of farmers and outlying houses.  When that school closed the children were bussed to school, and the teacher, a Mrs Bell, came with them.  There used to be another small school at Mearnskirk, which closed earlier.

The transport used to be what they called horse-buses that took people to Giffnock for the train to Glasgow.  Then they moved to a charabanc bus.



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