I spent a lot of my childhood in Greenhill at my grandparents’ croft of Forrester Quarter. We travelled back and forth from Stenhousemuir by public transport and this made me appreciate Greenhill. The train went from Larbert to Greenhill until the Beeching cuts ended this service. I recall the friendliness of the people at Greenhill Station and the highly polished wood within the station building. You could walk through the brickworks as a shortcut. Then Granda would meet us with Jackie, a brown and white terrier.
The house was long, low-built and whitewashed and my Granny always chose green paint for the doors and window frames. Granda had a row of old paint tins in the “egg room” and somehow mixed up the same strong green every summer. I thought I would like a shot at painting the gate but I got all the paint on my hands. Granda demonstrated how to lift your paintbrush without spilling paint and as he held up the exemplary paintbrush Jackie the terrier walked by and got a dollop of green paint on his white coat which stayed on him for some time. I realised painting was hard work and stuck to pulling out weeds from between the bricks on the area between the gates and also to brushing Roy the collie’s long coat – summer tasks. Whenever I thought I had brushed his coat enough, Roy would move his paw to indicate I was to keep brushing.
The hayfield was nearest the railway line and originally the hay would be forked into stacks and then the stacks moved up to the house on a trailer. Later on my uncle James had a baler. The best bit for me was the catering which involved my old doll’s pram being loaded with a big metal teapot, sandwiches and biscuits and wheeled down to the hayfield to cater for the workers – and the children as well.
In the wintertime the cattle were in the byres but they were let out in the morning to get a drink from the burn. I had to lift the turnips Granda chopped, put them into a pail and fill the troughs with them for each cow had its own place. I was not keen on meeting a black Aberdeen Angus bullock returning from the burn so, out of character, I got on with this job as quickly as I could.
Every day Granda took his two dogs for a walk along the road and up round by his son’s place. James would be working but my aunt Maureen would be there during the day. On our route Granda would likely meet neighbouring farmers like John Black, John Reid and old Bob Denholm. They would discuss the weather or incidents with cattle while I just stood listening. That was the country practice of fifty years ago. Granda would offer me a Polo mint at different stages of the walk and I always accepted. Granda said that it stood to reason that there should be subsidies for hill farmers and he would develop his argument saying “Now you take it….” I’ve never heard such fine exposition since.
Granda was a working man and he valued other people doing their work. One time a man was backing a cattle float down towards the byre and Granda was outside with his long coat and his flat bunnet with his hand raised saying, “Right, Sir. Right you are, Sir.”
Hens were kept in sheds around the stackyard and the fields. The eggs were sold to the Egg Marketing Board. Later on the number of hens was reduced and one summer two men came with a van and hooked the hens into the back of the van. I didn’t want to lose the hens but one of the men offered me an Opal fruit which I took and felt something of Judas in eating the sweetie from this man who was making off with the poultry.
At Christmas time a fine brown hen would be killed by Granda. He calmly moved among the hens in the hen house and gripped a hen by the neck, took it outside and swung it round. My Granny’s brother Jim would pluck it down in the stable, Granny would pull out the innards and my mum made the soup.
At New Year there would be a family gathering and a tray of very small glasses would sit on the sideboard. Auld Lang Syne was sung earnestly but there wasn’t much space for us all with our joined-up arms. Granda would make one phone call to his nephew, Sandy, in Strathaven and this was a long distance call so the family listened in appreciatively to “A happy New Year to you, Sanny, and mony ‘o them.”
Granda checked up on his cattle during the day and he also walked along the boundary dykes and lifted any fallen stones. In winter he shovelled out the dung into a barrow and wheeled it down to the dung midden. In the summer evenings Granny and Granda, mum, my sister and I happily sat at ‘the end of the house’ looking across to this heaped midden.
We collected the matches Granda threw from lighting his pipe, chased the odd bullock away and heard Granda’s suspicions about the market scales or his position in the order of farmers selling their cattle that day. It was a pleasant way to pass a summer evening. You could look down to the railway line and further across towards Denny. When darkness fell you could enjoy walking along the dirt track road and looking across to the lights of Bonnybridge and Denny.
I can’t recommend that way of life too highly. Times change and you cannot reclaim the past but the Greenhill Historical Society is a means of hearing others describing their happy memories.