Meg Jude (nee Aitchison)
Meg was a teacher for many years. A keen natural piano player, she entertained with friends from the village, singing and putting on small concerts.
I grew up in Stow and was the eldest of six. We had a headmaster called Mr. Thomson at Stow school and his wife Mrs. Thomson played the piano. There was a wooden partition that split up one class from another. On a Friday afternoon that was pushed back so the whole place was open and in came the piano and Mrs Thomson had us singing Scots songs. We sang everything; Caller Herrin, military songs, Scotland the Brave, Robert Burns, all the old Scots songs you could think of. Afton Water was a great favourite. We didn't sing Gala Water. It took up the afternoon and it was wonderful. I still know all those old Scots songs now. I go to a choir and I surprise them with what I know. We used to go home for our lunch, so we weren't around in the playground for long.
We had a piano and I went for music lessons. I didn't try very hard because I memorized music very quickly, so I tended to play by ear. I found that what I wanted to play I could usually do by myself. That has come in useful over the years because being a primary school teacher I didn't need any dramas with learning music. I could play by ear for them to sing and dance. My mother could play the piano, but she didn't play very often. I'm sure that if there had not been all of us running around the house and demands in other respects, she would have played more than she did.
I went to Miss Hope for my lessons, but I had to share a lesson because there were quite a lot of us and money was not easy to get. I shared with Janice Howie at Miss Hope's. Janice was very musical as well, but she stuck at it more than I did. She lived just two doors from us.
The mill was owned by the Mercers. My grandmother used to say:-
Stow it is a bonny place
It lies between twa hills
But if you want a bonnie lass
Apply tae Mercer's mills
There was a wonderful piano in my grandmother's house. It was in a special room that was only used on special occasions. I would sneak in there and get into terrible trouble....”What are you doing in here?” they'd say..... You see they didn't like me going in this room and playing the piano because I think they were annoyed that I didn't keep it up properly. What I was playing was probably popular stuff, so they didn't like me to be there doing that. I think it must have been Aunt Peggy, my father's sister, who played the piano. Neither of my aunts married. My father and my Uncle John both fought in the 1st world war. Father was 13 years older than mum. They came back from the war to try and carry on a business that grandfather had started but Uncle John had been gassed so many times that he wasn't able. Aunty Jessie and Auntie Peggy didn't marry. The joke was that they let all the bonnets go by, waiting for a bowler hat but a bowler hat didn't come! They looked after Gran and looked after the house. Aunty Jessie ran the business and Aunty Peggy had a sweet shop.
Mr and Mrs Waugh were a wonderful couple to have in a country church. Mr Waugh looked after the boys and ran the Boys Brigade. Mrs Waugh was the captain of the Girl's Guildry. We spent so many hours in their home. There was always an open door. They had no children of their own, but they had a wonderful girl who helped in the house called Isa Johnson. Isa did all the graft. Mrs Waugh did the fancy things. She would have us singing in the house sometimes. The Girl's Guildry was a girls’ organisation. We did some of the same things as the boys, like marching. The pipes were kept in a room in the manse. Both the girls and the boys learned to play. Anybody who was interested could learn. My sister Philis learned them. There was fundraising going on all the time to raise the money to buy them. Jean Blakey, who had a shop, was a great organiser of money for the band and gradually it expanded.
One person who played the pipes solo at that time was Hamish Rutherford. His father was the local village registrar. He had a joiner business. He used to walk up to above the Cockholm Burn and practise on the top of the hill.
Nowadays I love singing in the choir. Alison Vaisey is our choir leader. I listen to Classic Fm most days and sometimes during the night if I'm not sleeping. I taught in Musselburgh. In those days you got your grant from the county. Stow was in Midlothian then and so was Musselburgh. It isn't any more. I stayed in a flat in Edinburgh with two girls I'd been to college with and then came down to Musselburgh to teach.
We had a concert party when I was in my teens. This concert party was pretty much comprised of the church choir. There was Jock Anderson, John Pringle, David Watson and myself and Ellie Pringle (I think her real name may have been Isobel), who was a stalwart of the choir. The pianist was Bunty Waddel. We rehearsed in her house at Gladstone Terrace and we did concerts, mostly singing, in Oxton, Fountainhall, and around. John Pringle (Ann Thomson's husband, father of Ian) was tall and slim. Jock Anderson was a small plump man and they were quite good at doing funny songs together. They did The Parson of Puddle.
In the high little dry little, feel rather shy little
Parish of Puddle o'er which we preside
It fell to my duty to wed the stage beauty
To one of the air force's 2nd left Tooty
But to their delight on a Saturday night
just as a twelve month had run
she presented her spouse with a son...day
school hymn book which cost one and three
There were lots of verses. They were both dressed up as ministers. John Pringle often made up things and there was one song that he made up at the end of the war in the late forties, early fifties. It was about the ATS and the home guard. He dressed up as a woman in khaki. He had to ride a broom handle. I would love to have a copy of that. I asked Ian four years ago if he had any of his father's music and songs, but it all must have gone. What a shame people throw things out. My own aunt burnt all the photos of the family in her garden. There were pictures of the first bus that ever came to Stow and it was something I adored when I went to grannies to get out the photo album. All the old brown photos of the family have gone. This is some of what I remember of John Pringle's song....
I'm the only woman member of the Stow home guard
The work is very easy but the marching's very hard
Couldn't get a rifle so I got a besom shank
But I wouldna ken a German frae a Russian or a Yank
We went for target practice to the targets up the road
All there scattered far and wide when I began to load
There was an awfy shout when the trigger I did pull
And the sergeant says look here my lass
You've shot the *Murris bull *slang for Muirhouse
John Anderson and I used to sing as a duet, 'I'll Give you the Keys to my Heart' and 'Leezie Lindsay' and other songs like that. Dave Watson used to sing solo pieces like 'Danny Boy.' I used to sing, 'If I was a Blackbird I'd Whistle and Sing.' How I ever managed to do it I will never know. Looking back, I think how brave we were. If anyone were to ask me now, I wouldn't be able to. Sometimes there were little poems as well like 'The Sair Finger.'
When I was at college in Edinburgh, I used to come home at the weekend sometimes. I'd come off the bus and they would have Jimmy Shand on the radio in the house and we would do the Gay Gordons round the sofa. I remember dances in the town hall with the girls all at one end and the boys all at the other end. I can remember when they had a special dance for the Masons and we were allowed to go up on the balcony and look at all the people in their posh frocks. They did the grand march which was a sort of regimental dance. There were good ceilidh bands with accordians, drums and piano. The St Bernard's waltz and the Pride of Erin were popular too. In our late teens we went to Saturday dances further afield. We hired a van from Fairgrieves garage at Lauder.
Geordie Easton was the star attraction on a Saturday night. He was the fiddler of the village. He used to play in the Royal hotel with the windows open and we would sit outside along the wall and listen. He lived in an old tumbledown cottage beyond Bowland. He was a trapper. He dealt with the moles and crows and he would put what he'd caught along the walls. He'd get rabbits as well and during the war he used to come to our house with rabbits for mother to cook for us. If he came at lunch time he was always asked in for soup. God he would stink. He would come and sit at the table..... Oh gosh it was hard to bear really. He had a wooden leg. He must have been injured in the war. He cycled everywhere with those dead animals hanging from the handle bars. Sometimes on a Saturday night if he'd been to Galashiels and was coming home on the bus, he would take out his knife to cut baccy for his pipe. When he had finished his trick was to throw the knife into his wooden leg. If there was anybody there who didn't know him, they would be gasping. He was a law unto himself really and the village worthy. One day he was knocked off his bicycle on that straight bit of road near Bowland. He said, 'Hospital wasna bad because I found myself amang freends.' There was this man from this farm and that man from that farm, so he enjoyed his stay. The sad thing was he lost his bonnet. He said, ' When I was better I went looking for it behind the dyke and would you believe it I found it.'
When we were older, we went to the musicals in Galashiels........ Show Boat and the likes. It was quite a simple existence really. There was more we didn't have than we had. The radio was very important to us.