PRESERVING THE PAST . . . . FOR THE FUTURE
Growing up in Sorn 1945 - 1955
By David Raeside
Chris Lees' recollections of Sorn in the 1930's prompted me to add my own memories of growing up in the village just after the war. In most ways Sorn had not changed significantly in the next ten or fifteen years and many of the names from the pre-war days were still around during my boyhood.
I was born in Jock's Lodge, a large two storey building between the school and Alston's Smiddy, which was demolished I think around 1960 and became the site of Morton's garage car park. We lived there till 1955 when my parents got a council house in Catrine - much to my disgust as I remember.
Jocks Lodge had three dwellings; the entire upstairs was occupied by Malcolm Ross, manager of the cinema in Auchinleck, his wife Jean and son Robert (Bertie). Downstairs were two flats, divided by a stone floored entry running from front to back. On the right was old Mrs Anderson, who sold lemonade delivered to her by Curries every week. Half the village were knocking her door on Thursday nights.
We had the flat on the left, one bedroom for parents and two children, although my father as a regular in the RAF was away most of the time. There was no bathroom or indoor toilet, we had a dry closet at the bottom of the garden and on Friday nights my sister and I were taken to my grandparents at Craigend cottage for our weekly bath. I can still remember us coming back up the street on frosty winter nights, wrapped up like mummies in case we "caught oor death"!
We had electric light (which not all the houses in the village had) but no ring main, so my mother cooked on a double burner paraffin stove in the living room until about 1953 when the landlord had the place rewired and we became the proud owners of a Baby Belling cooker, which was about the size of a modern microwave !
In case I give the impression we were hard done by, this was more or less the way everybody lived in a Scottish rural village in post war days, and believe me we were better off than many in and around the village. Living next to the school, I only had to nip in through the gates at five to nine but some of the children from outlying places had to walk in to school in all weathers. There was a small community in Bridgend in these days and they walked in and back come hail or snow. No school buses then. Some of the farm children would walk the horse in to be shod in the smiddy and walk it back at night. Sometimes my mother would see one of them at the school gates and bring them in for a warm and maybe a piece of toast. And that's the way things were then, nobody had much but what they had they shared.
We had a small Co-op and Law the butcher from Galston used to come round once a week in his van, and I think a baker and a fishmonger from Catrine. Apart from that there was only Nell Cameron's shop and of course everything was rationed after the war so you needed coupons for your weekly bar of Fry's Cream chocolate.
The Alstons from the smiddy grew vegetables and from time to time Leslie would hand us over some potatoes or a cabbage. Tam Muir from the Sorn Inn had a greenhouse and sold tomatoes through the off sales hatch, fresh picked to order! If we ran out of milk I would be despatched on my bike to Smiddyshaw or Holehouse Hillhead farms with a can. So we weren't that hard done by, we just had to be a bit more resourceful in those days.
The summer holidays seemed to go on forever, and most days the same. Guddling for "beardies" in the river Ayr, and making camps in the woods behind Anderson Crescent. When I was older it was fishing with a pole and string with sixpenceworth of hooks and gut sold by Robertsons the jewellers in Catrine. The evenings would be spent at Blairmulloch farm with my uncles helping with the haymaking. Funny how it never rained then!
In the winter we had the weekly picture show in the Constitutional Hall, Friday nights I think. The projectionist was the headmaster, first Mr Bryson and later Mr Parker. They had to put the lights up to change reels or if the film broke and blew a whistle to shut us up when they were ready to re-start. This was of course before the village hall was built, so the Halloween and Christmas parties were held in the Constitutional Hall. Later on of course, Boyd Park started the cub and scout troops, but prior to that there was no other entertainment in winter apart from tormenting Joe Harris's cat, and that came to a painful end for me when Joe turned up on our doorstep.
When the snow arrived it was straight home from school and up to Rab Reynold's field with the sledges. The river Ayr would sometimes freeze over at Lintmill, and despite dire warnings from school and parents, we would sneak off to make slides.
I still remember the characters from those days, John Black the policeman - what could he ever have had to do in Sorn apart from hook the stragglers out of the two pubs at closing time? And the legendary Dykie, how we kids got out of the way when he came roaring up the street on a Saturday waving his stick at us after a session in the Greyhound.
We had some occasional visits from "people of the road", who trudged up and down western Scotland and who were given names such as Bottle Kate, Maggie Sticks, and Sleekit Wullie. All perfectly harmless but our parents would threaten us with a visit from them when we were misbehaving. Another regular visitor to the village was "Darkie Johnny" who lugged a suitcase of women's and children's clothes off the Kilmarnock bus and trudged up and down the village, knocking on doors. He was a gentle soul with a lovely smile and I think he probably got more cups of tea than sales.
It feels strange writing this, although it was all so long ago some of these faces are as fresh in my mind as if it were last week. As I said at the beginning we moved to Catrine eventually, but my heart stayed in Sorn, and I consider myself very fortunate to be blessed with so many happy memories of my childhood.