Written by John Pringle in the late 1940s early 50s, it is a song about the ATS and the home guard. John would dress up as a woman in khaki for this song. The original had many more verses but these two are the only ones remembered by Meg Jude of Stow. John composed many entertaining songs and rhymes and with a small group of friends he would entertain locally in Stow and in neighbouring villages.PDF arranged for Gala Water Singers
Stow Home Guard
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 *MurrisMuirhouse Farm bull
The sixteen verses of this poem describe memories of a childhood spent in Fountainhall. The poem was written by 'Traquair', who clearly grew up in one of the cottages at Burnhouse Mains or associated with Burnhouse Mansion. A number of individuals are mentioned in the poem, nearly all of whom can be traced in census records between 1841 and 1871. It is likely that the poem reflects the time around 1860 or a little before and was penned in later life.
John Dick, the last of the dynasty of blacksmiths to live in Fountainhall, had a typed version of the poem, a copy of which was made by Sam Samuel in the early 1980s; this is the source of the poem in the Gala Water History and Heritage archives. Although 'Langsyne on Gala Water' is known of by a number of people, it is not clear whether other copies have survived.
Clearly a lot of time was spent at Burnhouse Mains playing within the steading and wandering in local fields and woods, often for some distance; Carsinker Hill is a high point up to a mile from the farm steading. William Tweedie is recorded as the farmer at Burnhouse in the census from 1841 to 1861 by which time he was aged 74, clearly senior enough to be referred to as Auld Tweedie. Just north of the farm stood Cortleferry Inn (now a private house screened from the main road by trees) inhabited by Thomas Linton from 1851 to 1871 (aged 48). His occupation is variously described as railway labourer/surfaceman, grocer and cattle dealer. It is not clear whether Old Yarra was a nickname for Tam Linton himself or perhaps the name of his dog!
From this point the poem records the daily journey to Fountainhall school, crossing the Gala Water by the footbridge on the track connecting Burnhouse to Plenploth. Much is known of the structure which would have been there in Traquair's time, an iron bridge built in 1817 by John Dick's great-great grandfather, Andrew Hislop, who received a prize of 12 guineas from the Highland Society (about £770 today). A model of it is stored by the National Museum of Scotland. A more modern replacement stands there today, but it can still be swung from side to side! The ruins of Burnhouse sawmill still lie a short distance from the bridge but a former house in the valley bottom has now disappeared without trace. A John Traquair appears in the census in 1851 and 1861 (aged 41), living in Burnhouse South Lodge (still standing at the roadside). There is no evidence to indicate whether this was the same person who worked the sawmill, or was indeed the father of the poet (he had 3 sons of school age in 1861).
Plenploth is a small settlement south of Fountainhall village. Now part of Fountainhall Farm, it was a separate unit in Traquair's time. Jane Lumsden had a grocer's shop there (1841-1861). This would be nearer than the shop in the main village for people living at Burnhouse and possibly over the hills to the west at Nethershiels and Overshiels. James (Jamie) Lumsden farmed Fountainhall Farm from 1841 to 1871 (then aged 75) and the family also had a local joinery business which centred on Braeside (19 Old Stage Road) after it was built in the 1860s.
From 1841 to 1861 there are several households in the centre of the village operating as grocer, spirit dealer, shoemaker and tailor and those mentioned in the poem (Robbie Tait and Willie Baillie) do not appear after the 1851 census. This confirms that the period reflected on in the poem is no later than 1860. Robert Tait is a 'Grocer and Spirit Dealer' in 1851 when William Baillie is described as 'Hatter, Clothier and General Dealer in Hardware (employing 5 Tailors)'. Baillie seems to occupy the shop (15 Old Stage Road; it remained as such until 1977) and his tailor's shop was opposite in a building small parts of which can be seen in the garden allotment opposite. In the 1851 census a John Witherspoon, noted as deaf and dumb, lodged in the Baillie household (possibly the Dummie referred to). It is difficult to locate Robert Tait's shop among buildings which survive today and it obviously had some stabling for the pownie. It is possible that the wee bit hoosie made of wood also stood where the allotment garden now is. However, nobody called Bell appears in censuses of the time so Navvy Bell remains a mystery.
Clearly, from its position in the poem, Traquair attended school in the original 'Pirntaiton School', now a house set at right angles to and slightly below Old Stage Road. The current school building was probably built around 1861 since it is depicted in a book awarded as a prize to a pupil in that year. The census does not record a Wallace as schoolmaster (Lyle in 1851 and Dow in 1861).
His last stop is at the forge in Fountainhall smiddy. Geordie Dick had been a journeyman blacksmith under Andrew Hislop and had married one of his eight daughters, inheriting the business in 1855. It continued in his family for two more generations and operated until 1945. The building was demolished in 2009 and 2 new houses now occupy the site.
Almost everyone in the poem can be identified from census records except, unfortunately 'Traquair' himself. Whether this person penned more verses is not yet known but perhaps, one day, their identity may be discovered.PDF arranged for Gala Water Singers
Langsyne on Gala Water
By Gala’s bonny banks and braes
I spent my happy youthfu’ days
By wood and streams to roam at will
Or wander o’er Carsinker Hill
What fun we had at Burness Mains
Auld Tweedie aye was kind to weans
Through barns and byres we aft would play
At hide and seek till gloaming grey
Or yont to Cortleferry rin
In hopes to get Tam Linton in
And coax auld ‘Yarra’ if we could
To hunt for rabbits in the wood
For mony s year we trudged awa’
O’er to the Schule at Fountainha’
We watched the trout at Gala glide
Or swung the bridge from side to side
At Burness Mill we aften stood
When John Traquair was sawing wood
Or round the corner we would steal
And watch the splashing water wheel
We watched the hares and rabbits scud
Or squirrels in the ‘Cauld Brea Wood’
Or in below a culvert cower
To hear the trains gang rattling o’er
Then up to Lumsdens at Plenploth
Just now I’m free to take my oath
A kindlier, pawkier auld gudewife
You never met in a’ your life.
At Jamie Lumsden’s on the brae
We gang his cairts and would would lay
Then doon the brae tae Jehu flew
When his lang hat appeared in view.
Here Rabbie Tait wi’ cowl and dibble
Would hap about the pownie’s stable
And Bess wi’ water brush and pail
Would try to wash the pownie’s tail
The next was Willie Baillie’s store
Wi’ goods aye choked to the door
There wasna ane amang them a’
Was better liked in Fountainha’.
And richt opposite there stood
A wee bit hoosie built wi’ wood
And many a story she could tell
Aboot the tricks o’ ‘Navvy Bell.’
The auld Schule hoose beside the thorn
The see there sown some seed has borne
For men in college, Schule and ha’
Got their first learnin’ at Fountainha’.
Auld Wallace was a maister stern
But weel could bairns their lessons learn
‘to round the period and the pause’
and faith he didna spare the tawse
You find thon wee bit corner hoose
Where Baillie’s tailors sat sae crouse
I think I see the corner yet
The place where D/B? used to sit.
When winter’s wind blew cauld and fierce
The cauld oor very banes would pierce
We thought the cosiest place on earth
Was Geordie Dick’s warm smithy hearth
Still dear tae me the bonnie glen
Although there’s no a face I ken
The brightest o’ life’s lingering rays
Are Gala’s bonny banks and braes
Cross patch, draw the latch
Sit by the fire and spin
Take a cup and drink it up
Then call the neighbours in
Clappy clappy handies
Mammy’s at the well
Daddy’s away tae Edinburgh
Tae buy (child’s name) a bell
Stow it is a bonny place
It lies between twa hills
But if you want a bonnie lass
Apply tae Mercer's mills
I am a Girl Guide dressed in blue,
These are the actions I must do,
Salute to the Captain,
Bow to the Queen,
And turn my back
To the boy in green
5. Skipping Rhyme
I bought a Bubble Car, number 48,
I took it round the corner
(Person jumps out the rope, runs around one end back into the still moving rope)
and slammed on its brakes.
(the skipper has to stop the rope by jumping with their feet either side of the rope as quickly as they can)