Ceilidh-Ballroom-Old Time-Latin-Rock'n'Roll

Dance Music and Popular Songs for everyone

     Have a good time!,  enjoy a great Party!

        A little bit of my history

Made for me via Charlie Watkins of WEM

I was brought up in an orphan home with my younger brother  Michael               from the age of  6-15, beginning January 1946-23rd October 1954.

(Orphan Homes of Scotland, later to be called Quarriers after its founder,      William Quarrier). A complete village near Bridge of Weir.  
Tough times with bullying and abuse by the oldest 17/18-year-olds
and the earlier house parents. We eventually did get over it thankfully!
  After our father who took us on the train from Forfar (there was a family         breakup and he got custody of us both, leaving the rest of our siblings at home)     we were picked up from Glasgow and dropped off at the initial collection Cottage No 30 for two weeks. Then sent to No 22 for 2 years and moved again to  No 40 for the rest of our time there.

  The homes (as we called it), consisted of 43 detached large houses called
cottages, with around 30 children in each, with house-parent couples.
It had its own school, inclusive Infant to Senior. Fully functioning hospital,
a large church, baby maternity unit, Sanitorium, Epilepsy home, all trade
workshops, Fire Service unit, Waterworks etc.
Apparently, there were around 2.000 children and young adults in care
at the end of WW2. From the late 1860s to late 1930s, more than 30.000
children were taken into care, due to parental deaths and/or family breakups.          In the 1930s many were sent to work on farms in, Canada,
and Australia at the age of 11 to 14. Later, girls were put into service, nursing    or childcare, while boys went into the Forces.
    For girls, the home had its Brownies, Speedwells and Guides.
For boys up to 10, we had Navy cadets, 10-16 Boys Brigade.
    We had a basic education in the school there with only very few clever
pupils going on to Grammar school at Camphill, Paisley.
However, I did fairly well at Geography, English, Art, Technical drawing
and Woodwork. Our Tech and Woodwork teacher Mr Greenwood was
very good and sympathetic and rather took me under his wing.
So much so, that he gave me free rein to do whatever I chose with him
overseeing my efforts. I made a couple of toolboxes for lads who were
going out into the world as Electrician and Joiner. I also made a table
lamp and a standard lamp, the latter of which along with a Ladies Sewing
Cabinet I gave to my female house parent Mrs Ann Black. The cabinet is
still in the possession of her daughter Joan after all those years.

     I started my musical journey when I was in the 'Boys Brigade' as a side      drummer of the pipe band. Later when I moved back to my home town of         Forfar in 1954 to start my apprenticeship as a joiner/cabinetmaker at
E&D Nichols Craig o' Loch Road, 
the tradesman whom I was under Bill Machan, played accordion and piano with the   'Jim Sutherland Scottish Dance Band'.      When he found I was always drumming my fingers and whistling, and realising   how keen I was to play, he asked me if I'd like to join the band. I jumped at the chance!I played with them for two years.   At the same time, our workshop foreman  Watt Leslie  was the Pipe Major of 'Forfar Burgh Pipe Band' and   suggested I join them, which I did with not a second thought. Both things really sent me on my way. I then played with Clive Laings 'Angus County Dance Band' for the next five years. It was during this time, around 1960 that I was asked, at very short notice, to fill in for another drummer who was ill. Imagine my surprise when I went to the dance hall and found it was 'Jimmy Shand'.

I could have fallen through the floor. Unsmiling Mr Shand shook my hand at    the finish saying "Ye did a'right son" and in his hand was ten bob,

fifty pence in today's money, which was one-fifth of a weeks wage then.
 

   I left Forfar aged 23 after securing a job in London with a joinery firm
called Yewvale Joinery as a foreman in charge of making and fitting out      Westminster Banks, shops and private houses in London and counties. 
I had 16 men and 4 apprentices to oversee including the machinists.
Taking new staff on trial was all right, but having to sack people I hated.
I had a visit from another company whilst at Yewvale, offering me a job
for more money ie; 1 shilling per hour more so handed in my notice.
S G Pelling and Son Bermondsey as Joinery/building manager.
I worked for various companies while in London, including an exhibition
firm Beck and Politzer where I was in charge of making a large stand
for the American Meat Marketing Association, at the Ideal Homes 1964
exhibition at Earls Court. I spent the whole month there supervising the
maintenance on a number of stands and having great conversations with
the American contingent, who dreamed of having Scottish connections.

 

   After a few years having got married, I worked for Russells of Woodley       near Reading as a chargehand, then after a few months I secured a job
with J G Meaks Ltd Luxury "Sealion" boat builders in Marlow Bucks, again     for another 1 shilling per hour plus bonus.  While there, they changed from
steel hulls to fibreglass, being much lighter and therefore  faster.                         I was asked to take charge of building the timber mock-ups for the Master formers to apply the fibreglass. These were 42 ft and 36ft models. 
                                                           ********
As we couldn't afford to buy a house in the South, we moved up to                  Westmoreland (as it was then) and managed to buy a semi-detached   
cottage in the small hamlet of Hincaster.  I got the house and a job on
the same day. The job was with a new  furniture company in Kendal
called Panther Furniture. I was their first employee taken on as Foreman,
then we expanded to 10 as contracts started piling in very quickly.
We were then taken over by a company who supplied furniture by various
makers to Clubs, Colleges all over the UK including Lancaster University.
I was in charge of making the 10 ft Boardroom table for Lancs Uni,
and made and fitted full-wall clothes and shoes wardrobe in Walnut for
Sir George Grenfell Baines chief of Building Design Partnership Preston. 
                                                           ********
  When the above company Panther Furniture was taken over it was not
long before they shut us down as we were proving to be successful, and a      thorn in the side of other North West office furniture making companies.
It was then I decided at some risk in July 1968, to go it alone as a self
employed Antique Furniture Restorer and Cabinetmaker. I very quickly
started getting restoration work after advertising just once in the local newspaper. After some time, I was asked to join the "Guild of Lakeland
Craftsmen" which I did in early 1977. They were to be celebrating their
Silver Jubilee with an Exhibition in Windermere and, as it happened
was the Queen Elizabeth 11 Silver Jubilee also. I decided to make a very
special piece of furniture namely a "Ladies Escritoire" (writing desk) that
can be seen here in my Cabinetmaking and Art section pictures.
This became the centre piece of the exhibition which was actually made
a feature of on BBC Look North with cameras zooming in to show details.
At the end of the programme, presenter Stuart Hall made some very
complimentary remarks about buying it, but it had already been bought.
                                                            ********
We spent the the next eight years there modernising and bringing it up            to    date  while having our two longed for children Gordon and Lawrence.
As I was already having to rent premises for my workshop we kept our             eyes and ears open in the hope we could find a property to combine the two.   We eventually found a barn through a friend which I converted. Built on a shoestring with very little money, I did everything myself,              
stonework, bricking, plumbing, electrics, all joinery (including making               the doors, windows etc) except having help lifting the concrete  lintels      above them. I worked all the hour's God sent on the building while     
keeping my day job going on my Cabinetwork. Many a time cleaning my building tools after midnight. We spent four years in caravans on    
the site until we could move into the first room in the daytime  which was    the kitchen, then slept for two years crammed into what is now  the
downstairs bathroom.
Admittedly tough times but somehow we managed to keep our sanity.
                                                         ********

 The music had taken  a back seat until friends and customers in my
business of Antique Furniture Restoration and Cabinetmaking heard what
I had done previously regarding music, and encouraged me to take it up
again. So, at the age of 50, I got myself back into the music scene.

    I now play on a regular basis for various functions, tho' mainly solo.

Playing with musicians whom I've known for many years, for Ceilidhs when     the occasion arises. The Bands;  'Front Parlour Band' & 'Hard Times'

Members:- Laurie and Gordon Johnston  augmented when required by

other local experienced musicians.  
                                                          ********
I have just added this note to say, having been in poor  health for the last
couple of years I had to give up my music. I have played many various     
functions but especially regularly for Ballroom Sequence dancing all over
the North of England and Border counties. I made many friends and miss     them all so much very much along with the music.
       Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind
              Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne 
                                                       Rabbie Burns                  

                                                                     

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