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A child's memories of wartime in the Braes of Glenlivet

by BBC Scotland

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Archive List > Rationing

Contributed by 
BBC Scotland
People in story: 
Miss Mary Clark, Isabella and William Rattray, Charlie Grant, Margaret McFarlane
Location of story: 
Braes of Glenlivet, Banffshire. Buckie, Banffshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
16 September 2005

This story has been submitted to the People's War site by Allan Price on behalf of Mary Clark and has been added with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I was born in 1938 to William Rattray and Isabella (nee McKay) at Clashnore Farm in the Braes of Glenlivet and lived there until 1945. All my wartime memories are from the age of about four years old to seven years old. My two younger sisters don't have any memories of the war years at all.

Because my father was a farmer he was not called up for service, so we were hardly aware that there was a war on. I don't remember being short of food but I do remember the tins of dried milk from the Ministry of Food ("MOF" we called it). Amongst other things, my mother used it to make little cakes which she called "doodlebugs". For some reason, because I would have thought we would have had fresh eggs and fresh milk, I remember trying to think of ways of baking with dried eggs.

I also remember that we took two slices of dry bread to school with us every day and that the teacher issued us with spoonfulls of apricot jam frim a huge tin to put on the bread. The teacher told us to put our hands up if we didn't like apricot jam. I had never tasted it in my life so had no idea whether I liked it or not but was intrigued by the thought of "if you don't like it you don't have to have it". I had been brought up to eat what was put in front of me and had never come across the concept of "choice". I decided to put up my hand, wondering what I would get instead. I got nothing instead!! I had dry bread for many months. I never told a soul, but it taught me a salutary lesson. Take what you get and be thankful for it.

There were Italian Prisoners of War working on the farm. My mother cooked for them and she allowed them into the little scullery to brew their own coffee. It was the first time we had smelt coffee and I can still conjure up the lovely aroma to this day.

We walked miles to the Church Hall to change our gas masks and I remember a huge rubber contraptions which my baby sister would have had to be zipped into in case of a gas attack.

Until recently I was not able to corroberate a memory I had that a yellow aeroplane had landed in one of our fields. It was quite a small plane, made of wooden slatted boards about 5' deep. By coincidence I met up with a neighbour of ours in Aberdeen. When we got chatting I discovered he was Charlie Grant who had been born and brought up at the "Bochel", another farm in the Braes. I remembered visiting his house with my mother when I was small. He would be about 12 years older than me and had very clear memories of the aeroplane. In fact, along with some of the other lads from the Braes, he'd sat in it trying to start it up. We never heard what happened to the pilot.

In 1945 we moved to another farm "Cleanhill" on the outskirts of Buckie. We had a house-maid, a lovely Glasgow girl called Margaret McFarlane who had worked on the farm as a Land Girl before we got there. She became a favourite "aunt" who went on to marry a local farm servant and continue to live in the area.

About a year later, 1946-47, we moved into a house in the town of Buckie where my father became an ambulance driver. I remember collecting all the ration books from elderly neighbours and waiting in huge queues in the Fisherman's Hall to be issued with new books. I also remember the queues in the sweetie shop when the first delivery arrived. I had only tasted sweets once before and that was while we still lived in the Braes, when my uncles came home from the war (one in the Army and one in the Air Force). I don't know where they had been stationed or where they'd managed to buy the sweets.

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