There's lots o folk aye gaun on aboot 'the guid auld days', an while it could be sayed that nooadays is no a lot better, ye have tae admit it wiz different then.
Ah'll tak yis aw back tae whit it wiz like in Methil in the 50s an bet yis onnythin ye like that ye widnae let yer bairns cairry on like we did.
A lot of people are always going on about 'the good old days', and while it could be said that nowadays is not a lot better, you have to admit it things were different then.
I'll take you all back, to what it was like in Methil, in the 50s, and I will wager anything you like, that you would not allow your children to carry on as we did.

Bein a laudie in Methil, an ha'en the respect o yer pals, meant only wan thing - ye h'd to go oot an explore 'The Kirklands'.
Th Kirklands wiz a piece o land next tae the river Leven, an it wiz owned by the 'Steelworks'. That meant it wiz private. It had notices up that sayed so. It wiz fu o trees an stingin nettles. Ye had tae cross the 'Dam' tae get to it. It wiz irresistable.
Being a boy in Methil, required the respect of your peers. That meant only one thing - you had to go out, and explore 'The Kirklands'.
The Kirklands was an area of land, next to the river Leven, and it was owned by the 'National Steel Foundry'. That meant, it was private. It had notices posted, that said so. It was full of trees and stinging nettles. You had to cross the 'Dam' to get to it. It was irresistable.

Ye needed tae be dressed richt. Jeans were the big thing. No fashionable - jist claes fur workmen. Dead cheap - an magic fur climbin trees! They were nettle-proof, an doon the Kirklands, ye needed them! So ye stole yer brither's jeans - faur too big - an held them up wi yer elastic-belt wi the snakes-heid clasp. You needed to be dressed properly. Jeans were the favourite. Not fashionable - just clothes for workmen. Really cheap - and magic for tree climbing! They were nettle-proof, and in the Kirklands, you needed them! So, you stole your brother's jeans - far too big - and held them up with an elasticated-belt, with a snakes-head clasp.

Next, intae the coal bunker, an ye took the axe that yer maw yaised tae chap up the kindlin fur the fire. Watch no lose it, noo!
Mah pal didnae hae an axe (they couldna afford the coal, so wha needs kindlin?), so ah gi'en him the wee mash wi the pund-an-a-hauf heid. There micht be a buildin tae knock doon.
Next, you opened the coal bunker, and took the axe that your mother used to chop up kindling for the fire. Make sure that you do not lose it!
My friend didn't have an axe (if you can't afford coal - who needs kindling?), so I loaned him, the little hammer with the pound-and-a-half head. There might be a building to knock down.

On the wey, ye'd get aw the gang th'gether.
There wiz ayewis wan wi money, so the first stop wiz the shop at the tap o the Steelworks Brae. The hale lot o yiz wid pile intae the shop. A gang o bairns wid mak onny shopkeeper worried, so ye made share that aw the axes were tucked intae yer jook. We must have looked like a tribe o Apaches wi cardigans an pullovers on.
On the way, you'd gather all the gang.
There was always one with money, so the first stop was the shop at the top of the Steelworks Hill. The whole lot of you, would swarm into the shop. A gang of children would make any shopkeeper nervous, so you made sure that all the axes were tucked into your top. We must have looked like a tribe of Apaches, wearing cardigans and pullovers.

Straicht tae the knife display. We aw wanted a sheaf knife (we could spell 'sheath', we jist couldnae pronounce it richt!). Wan o the wans wi the layers o leather in the haundle. The bigger, the better. Coorse, what we usually ended up wi, wiz a cheap wan wi the pressed-tin haundle, pented tae look like the real thing. An a leather sheath! If ye had the money, there wiz nae argument. If ye didnae - nuthin dae'n!
If it wiz a nichtime expedition, the faverit buy wiz a 'bullseye' torch. Fitted neat in yer pocket an made ye the 'King o the Nicht'.
We went straight to the knife display. We all wanted a 'sheaf-knife' (we could spell 'sheath', we simply couldn't pronounce it correctly!). One of the kind with the layers of leather in the handle. The bigger, the better. Of course, what we usually ended up with, was a cheap one with a pressed-tin handle, painted to resemble the real thing. And a leather sheath! If you had money, there was no argument. If you didn't - nothing doing!
If it was a nightime expedition, the favourite buy, was a 'bullseye' torch. It fitted neatly, in your pocket, and made you the 'King of the Night'.

If there wiz onnythin left ower, it wiz 'Jubblys' aw roond. Ye needed guid teeth tae try an chaw the package open. It wiz a triangular pyramid (richt clever, that!) an the chances were that wance it wiz opened, it wid pop richt oot o the packet an land in the dirt. Nae problem. Dirt is somethin ye can lick off an spit oot. If there was anything left ower, it was 'Jubblys' all round. You needed good teeth, to chew open the package. It was a triangular pyramid (very clever, that!), and the chances were, that once it was open, the contents would pop right out of the packet, and land in the dirt. No problem. Dirt is something that you can lick off, then spit out.

When awboddy wiz ready (or quicker, if wan o yiz had been spotted shopliftin!), it wis off an away doon the brae. When everybody was ready (or quicker, if one of you had been spotted shoplifting!), it was off, and away down the hill.

Noo the Kirklands wiz private, so ye ouldnae jist wander doon an in the front gate. Ye had tae fund the secret path through the wids on this side, till ye come tae the tree that had fa'en doon ower the Mill Dam.
Up on the tree an walkin across. The bark wiz rotten an covered wi green moss. If ye slipped, ye'd been in the dam an droont! But ye had tae staund up an walk across. Only bairns sat astride the tree an shuffled across. Onnybody that got scared an started greetin, it wis 'Faerdy-gowt!' an 'Wha's a wee baby, then?' Riskin death wiz better than livin wi the contempt o the gang. Ah think we wiz aw scared, but naebody w'd show it. No efter the furst time.
Now, with the Kirklands being private, you couldn't just wander down, then in through the front gate. You had to find the secret path through the woods, on this side, until you came to the tree that had fallen down over the Mill Lade.
You went up onto the tree, and walked across. The bark was rotten, and covered with green moss. If you slipped, you'd be in the Lade, and drowned! But you must stand up, and walk across. Only small children sat astride the tree, and shuffled across. If anybody got scared, and started crying, it was shouts of 'You are afraid!' and 'Who's a little baby, then?' Risking death was preferrable to living with the contempt of the gang. I think that we were all scared, but nobody dared show it. Not after the first time.

Jump aff the end o the tree, an ye were in the Kirklands. Nettles higher than yer heid. Ye really needed thae jeans, but ye still had t'try an trample the nettles doon tae mak a path. The jeans only come up tae yer waist, an if ye slipped an let the nettles spring back up, it wiz a face fu o fire. Ye usually got stung onnywey, an ye jist had tae jump up an doon till the stingin eased aff. Then the blisters got aw warm feelin an that wiz OK. It wisnae worth the stingin though.
Dock leaves rubbed on wiz supposed tae stop the sting, but it's no much yaise if ye have tae fecht yer wey through a hunnert yairds o stingin jungle tae fund wan. They were awricht as toilet paper, though. Jist mind where ye go!
Jump off the end of the tree, and you were in the Kirklands. Nettles, higher than your head. You really needed those jeans, but you still had to try and trample the nettles down, to make a path. The jeans only come up to your waist, and if you slipped, and let the nettles spring back up, it was a face full of fire. You usually got stung, anyway, and you just had to jump up and down, until the stinging eased off. Then, the blisters produced a warm feeling, and that was OK. It wasn't worth the stinging, though.
Rubbing on Dock leaves, was supposed to stop the sting, but it's not much use, if you have to fight your way through a hundred yards of stinging jungle, simply to find one. They were alright as toilet paper, though. Just mind where you go!

There wiz an auld red saundstane buildin in the middle o the wids. Ah think it wiz the auld manse that gi'ed th Kirklands its name. Probably historic. We wiz bairns. We climbed aw ower it, an yaised the mash tae knock the stanes aff so we could drap them fae a great height.
In later years, efter the benefit o a High Skale education, we filled empty 'Harpic' tins wi hame-made explosives an blew bigger bits aff the buildin! Ah never had an eye fur architecture, but ah got tae be richt knowledgeable aboot auld mortar an the wey it crumbled under yer fingers when ye were thirty fit up a chimney breast.
There was an old, red sandstone building in the middle of the woods. I believe that it was the old Manse, that gave the Kirklands its name. Possibly historic. We were children; we climbed all over it, and used the hammer to dislodge the stones, so that we could drop them from a great height.
In later years, with the benefit of a High School education, we filled empty 'Harpic' tins, with home-made explosives, then blew even bigger bits off the building! I never had an eye for architecture, but I became very knowledgeable about old mortar, and the way it crumbled under your fingers, when you were thirty feet up a chimney breast.

Havin got demolition mair or less oot o oor system fur the day, ye had a choice. It wiz either the 'Black Pipe or Tarzan practice. Having got demolition more or less out of your system for the day, you had a choice. It was either the 'Black Pipe', or Tarzan practice.

The 'Black Pipe' wiz a six-fit diameter sewage pipe that spanned the river Leven. It wiz over thirty fit long, and they'd fitted a hauf-circle o spears at each end tae stop onnybody crossin the watter. Jist tae labour a point, they greased the middle section o the pipe. Ah've never figured oot hoo that wiz supposed tae be a safety feature, but in thae days, it wiz a challenge.
Ye walked up tae the circle o spears an chucked haundfu's o dirt on the grease. Needed summat tae walk on! Then it wiz oot along the bottom spear that wiz nearly level, shufflin yer feet till ye go tae the end. Look doon if ye like, but ah dinnae recommend it. Holdin on tae the spear tips, ye swung yer body aroond the points, then made yer wey back along the bottom spear tae the pipe. Walk across the dirt, wobblin a wee bit as the wind caught ye, an dae the same tae the ither circle.
Easy peasy! Ye were noo in Donaldson's widyaird - a wonderland o wid, rope an canvas. But that's anither story ...
The 'Black Pipe' was a six-foot diameter sewage pipe that spanned the river Leven. It was over thirty feet long, and they had fitted a half-circle of spears, at each end, to stop anybody from crossing the water. Just to labour a point, they also greased the middle section of the pipe. I've never figured out how that was supposed to be a safety feature, but, in those days, it was a challenge.
You walked up to the circle of spears, then threw handfuls of dirt on to the grease. You needed something to walk on! Then, it was out along the bottom spear, that was nearly level, shuffling your feet until you reached the end. Look down if you like - I wouldn't recommend it. Holding on to the spear tips, you swung your body around the points, then made your way back along the bottom spear to the pipe. Walk across the dirt, wobbling a little, as the wind caught you, then do the same at the other circle.
Simple! You were now in Donaldson's woodyard - a wonderland of wood, rope and canvas. But that's another story ...

Playin Tarzan wiz the easier choice. Along fae the auld Manse wiz an avenue o trees. Must hae been a bonnie place in its time, but it wiz getting overgrown an the trees were gey near touchin. Up the first tree ye'd go. Ye yaised the axe tae mak steps, removed awkward branches, or jist cause ye fancied yersel as a lumberjack. Naeboddy seemed tae mind that the real Tarzan didnae wear jeans an a lumber-jeckit.
Ye headed oot as far as ye could go, an the branches were saggin a bit. Tuck the axe in yer belt, an mak a mad breenge in the direction o the next tree. Scrabblin desperately, ye'd finally reach a decent sized branch an ye were safe. We kent that a big enough haundfu o twigs is jist as strong as a branch. Kind'o profound, that iz!
So on tae the next tree.
Playing Tarzan was the easier choice. Along from the old Manse, was an avenue of trees. It must have been a beautiful place in its time, but now, it was getting overgrown, and the trees were almost touching. You would climb the first tree. You used the axe to make steps, remove awkward branches, or simply because you fancied yourself as a lumberjack. Nobody seemed to care, that the real Tarzan didn't wear jeans and a lumber-jacket.
You headed outwards, as far as you could go, and the branches were sagging a bit. Tuck the axe in your belt, then make a mad jump in the direction of the next tree. Scrabbling desperately, you'd finally reach a decent sized branch and then you were safe. We knew that a big enough handful of twigs, is every bit as strong as a branch. Very profound, that!
Now, on to the next tree.

Like lacerated monkeys, scarted tae hell an wi leaves an startled sparries fleein aweys, we jumped fae tree tae tree. Never touchin the grund till we reached the twentieth tree.
Ah wiz the only wan that jumped on tae the twenty-first. Nae ither bairn ever did! Nuthin tae be prood o. Ah wiz the wan that discovered the twenty-first tree wiz a hawthorn. Never jump intae a hawthorn bush. It taks an awfy long time tae fa' tae the grund, an ye collect an awfy lot o thorns in the process. No only that, but thorns hurt mair when yer takin them oot than what they did gaun in.
Like lacerated monkeys, scarred all over, and with leaves and startled sparrows fleeing in all directions, we jumped from tree to tree. Never touching the ground until we reached the twentieth tree.
I was the only one that jumped on to the twenty-first. No other boy ever did! Nothing to be proud of. I was the one who discovered that the twenty-first tree was a hawthorn. Never jump into a hawthorn bush. It takes an eternity to fall toe the ground, and you collect an huge quantity of thorns in the process. Not only that, but thorns hurt more when you're taking them out than how they did, going in.

Efter that, it wiz back through the nettles (stung again!) an across the fa'en tree cross the Dam. On the wey up the brae, ye'd get a drink fae the well ootside the cottages. It wiz made o cast-iron an had a top in the shape o a lion's heid. Tae turn it on, ye had a tap like a brass door-haundle. Spring-loaded sos ye'd hae tae twist it back an forrit, buildin up momentum till the watter gushed oot o the lion's mooth. Ye held yer heid under the lion's mooth, and as it scooshed oot, ye got a drink an washed the blood aff yer face. After that, it was back through the nettles (stung again!), then across the fallen tree, across the Mill Dam. On the way up the hill, you'd get a drink from the water-tap outside the cottages. It was made of cast-iron, and had a top in the shape of a lion's head. To turn it on, you had a tap like a brass door-handle. It was spring-loaded, so you had to twist it backwards and forwards, building up momentum, until the water gushed out of the lion's mooth. You held your head under the lion's mouth, and as it poured out, you took a drink, and washed the blood off your face.

Ah dinnae ken whit an eight year auld bairn would get tae dae these days.
The Warriors o Methil were annointed in blood at the lion's heid.
These days, I doubt that any eight year old child would be allowed to do any of these things
The Warriors of Methil were annointed in blood, at the lion's head.

Top of the Page

Original material © Dave Sloan 2005, 2016
'tachras' and 'Winding Yarn' © Dave Sloan 2005, 2016

tachras Home Page
Talk to tachras
Translate into English
Darwin's Mouse
The Annexe