West Barns Memories – transcripts

1. Ally Knox remembers the bulb farm.

Tulip farm near West BarnsIn 1936/37 two gentlemen from Holland came to West Barns to set up a bulb farm. This was created at Hedderwick Links Farm. These two gentlemen were Mr Blom and Mr Turk. They resided at West Barns and their children went, with me, to West Barns School. All the plants that they started were: roses; gladioli; daffodils; tulips; . . . and dahlias. To give you some idea of what they actually grew was over 300,000 flowers were grown.  The thing about them was they left West Barns to return to Holland before the Second World War. But the legacy they left was there is a rose called Queen Mary. The thing about this Queen Mary rose was the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary was decked out in roses that came from here, this bulb field. A bunch of roses was given to the Commodore and at New York a bunch was given to Mistress Roosevelt. That is the whole story of West Barns Bulb Field.

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2. Ally Knox recounting the story of the Annandales’ Paper Mill of the 1890s.

The first company to come to West Barns was the Annandale’s from Polmont Papermill who wanted to buy the land here to build a paper mill. The reason being they wanted to buy the land here and the paper mill was the access to water, also the main line, railway line that was put in. The paper mill started with over 300 workers. And the paper was made from rags brought from Dunbar Harbour that was shipped over . . .

From Europe?

From Europe. Now the paper mill started in 1862 and ran until 1868/69 when it caught fire.

Right, so just for six years really?

Right, and the reason it caught fire was internal combustion from esparto grass that they had started to bring in. And it burnt down, the whole lot burnt down.

Nothing was left?

Nothing was, well there was remains left. One side of the railway line was burnt down. The railway, they had two railway tracks within the complex. The west one complete area was burnt down; the Engineers Shops and everything were burnt down, the other side remained. And that was West Barns Papermill. And the story there was it was the only time the people in Dunbar thought there was black snow! And all it was was the black ashes of the paper mill. When it caught fire there was nothing but a horde of rats running through the field coming out the paper mill. And the last man to go in to the paper mill was a man called Jimmy Lees and he went in there to get his jacket and his gold watch. My great grandfather, auld Geordie Knox, was the timekeeper plus being an engineer. And that’s how the Knox’s lived at the gates at West Barns for many, many, years.

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3. Peter Aitchison remembering his school days at West Barns Primary

I was five year old in 1932 when we went to the school, the West Barns School, and there were three classrooms, there were three teachers, and each teacher had three classes or three classes in each three rooms. Mr William Mill was the Headmaster and he was strict. There was never any trouble. I have seen once or twice what you call the tawse. Not very often but everything was quiet and civilised. The primary teacher was Miss Scott; the next one was Miss Angus and there was Mr Mills, Mr Mill really. He had a nickname, Paddy. It wasn’t because he was Irish but he wore a Paddy hat, if it was cold that, you know. But . . . he was a fair man, I thought very, very good. I understand he went to, when he retired, he retired about 1938 I think, then Mr Deans came, and I think he retired to . . . New Zealand. And he had a daughter and a son. Mitchell Mill his son, he was a banker.  I knew he ended up in Campbeltown there, working there.

Do you remember any adventures, school adventures, anyone that was up to no good or did you have any outings?

Never, never any outings, no, no . . .

No, No.

No, no. Just maybe at Christmas time there, at Christmas time we had a party and it was Major Hay and Mrs Hay of Belton and the Cunningham’s of Hedderwick sponsored the party for us. Firecrackers and things and we always looked forward to that. So that was that anyway.

Did you like going to school?

Oh I did.

Do you have good memories of it?

Oh yes I did. I enjoyed West Barns, oh aye. I didn’t like it very much when we went to Dunbar though.

Why not?

Well the war had started and we only got half day tuition. Didn’t get proper teaching, you know, no.

It was difficult times wasn’t it?

Difficult time aye, yes. We played football with a tennis ball and Mr Mill would come out and he’d start playing with us you know.

The head teacher or?

The head teacher, and we liked that because sometimes school went in ten minutes late. Playing kicking the ball if you beat him he used to kick your ankle you know, he was a dirty player. Put it that way anyway you know.

That’s a good memory. That is a sign of a good head teacher. He was able to play, play football.

I liked him, I did. He was strict, never any trouble.

How did he manage not to have any trouble at school?  It’s not very easy to achieve nowadays.

No, no well once or twice someone would maybe get the tawse, you know. It might have been that. But . . . I think nowadays they are too lenient in the schools. They get to do what they want.

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4. Peter Aitchison remembering a German raid during the Second World War

Peter do you have a cannon shell in two pieces. Would you be able to tell us how you found it and what happened?

Well, I was fourteen year old at the time; that would be 1941 and was playing where Boyd stables are I was talking about, in the barn. Then we heard this . . . machine gun, so we looked out and there this plane, it might have been a Heinkel. It was that low we could see the pilot’s head at the front you know and it had fired . . . a shot, a . . . incendiary one, yes. So there was a hole in the roof of the kiln, hole in the roof. So there wasn’t anybody in the, well sometimes there was only one man there. But we went in because we’d been in the place often. We went upstairs in the kiln, you know, the kiln is like a grid. There was this cannon shell. There was a hole in the roof and the cannon shell was like that. So I’ve got it in the desk up the stairs. It was an incendiary one because it’s hollow inside you see. But it didn’t set the place on fire. So that’s quite authentic. It was in two pieces, you know and it’s bent at the end where it struck.

And how was the war time in the village? Was West Barns affected by the war, was there any activity, was there anything happening in the village during the war?

Eh . . . no. Except once there was a bomb dropped about Belton, I can’t remember one or two. I went up to look at the crater. Gee whiz you could have got this house in it, you know. It must have been a land mine or something. But I was lying in bed with my brother and the bang you know, God, it sounded as if it was next door, you know.

Were there many men from West Barns went to war?

Oh there could have been maybe, there in the Hall, the people killed anyway. Oh aye there quite, quite a few. My cousin he went to, Billy Jowet, he was called up as he was older than me. He got killed. They say he got killed in Brussels. That’s all I know vaguely. But eh, the Maltings went on fire around 1942. Of course there was some, I think it was 1942, and there was German prisoners, you know, doing bit jobs here and there. And they went along the road one day after the fire. They were in the back of this lorry and they all cheered because they must have thought it was the bombs that set the fire but it was just an accident, you know, but they all cheered because they thought boy have we got something anyway, you know. Aye, and then, of course, we had ex-prisoners. Ukrainians and what not you know. Some Ukrainians fought with the Germans, you know, against the Russians. Fine now and quite nice men too, you know, ken, never said very much. Remember Paul, Paul Rudenik was a Pole, Rudenick, Radnick or Rudnik.

Yes, could be both.



I used to work with him while building houses in Dunbar you know. In the summer time he took his jacket off and he had chunks of flesh out of him, you know must have been with shrapnel you know, ken. Paul aye, big moustache you know he was a right Slav he was, you know. Paul Rudnick. Oh and the MacAdams stayed in Bielside, and one of the MacAdams married a Pole, Florek Cribsneack, Tripsneach.


Big man, uniform you know, he married one of the MacAdams over here, you know. They had Bielside. Florek Trebniack well after the war he kept pigeons and he won a derby race, a big race from Nantes in France with his pigeons you know. They called the bird the West Barns Queen. If I remember correctly, you know.

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5. Tyner Barber remembering her school days at West Barns Primary

What do you remember about West Barns Primary School?

Well, I remember a prize giving thing and I was very young, and I’ve never forgotten this, and I had to sing Simple Simon. And I can remember being told, you know, Simple Simon “At last I have not any” and I had to do all the things. And I remember that very much. And I remember that there were three classes in each room, you know, a row of desks for each class. So the teachers had quite a busy time.

So do you mean they were composite classes?


So different ages?

Different ages, we had Miss Scott who was the junior teacher, and then we had Miss Angus, and then we had Mr Deans who was the headmaster. I think we had a very good education. He was very good teacher. And we had lovely school concerts. And we had the races and we used to all walk down through the village with our cups across our shoulders, down to Hedderwick and we had the races there. And that was . . .

Oh in Hedderwick . . .

That was the highlight of the year, the races.

Was that for sports day?

Yes, yes but we just called it the races and we all had our new dresses, you know, it was lovely.

Oh that’s lovely.

And we would walk down through the village. And I remember my Granny was standing waving to me as I went past.

So it was a big village event?

It was the biggest event, yes.

And all the families would attend and cheer?

Yes, oh yes. It was lovely, lovely. And the school concerts were very popular and there was quite a lot of talent, some good singers, you know. And all the parents would come along clapping.

Was that for any special occasion, for end of year . . .

Well usually during . . .

Or Christmas?

No, during the war it was for the Red Cross or things like that, but it was all in aid of the war effort. And we used to, you know, dressed up and sing all these, all these war songs, you know too. And they were very popular.

Very good, and you said head teacher was he very strict head teacher or was he . . . ?

Yes, yes. He was very strict, very strict. And he carried his belt.

He carried belt all the time, oh my goodness.

Yes, oh yes.

It was more for boys than for girls . . .

More for boys yes, I don’t think I got the belt, I can’t remember. But we got a very good education. Yes I think we did, really.

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6. Tyner Barber recalling those who did not return to West Barns from the Second World War

Yeah, my Dad came back thank goodness, but some of the boys didn’t eh?

Yes, do you know some who went and . . .

One particular one, he lived about . . . two doors up from me. I always think of him on Armistice Day and I must have been three or four and I used to go up there and watch him shave and he used to tease me and everything. And I can always remember he used to burl me round and he had, you know, funny how you remember these things, he had strong arms and he’d turn me round and he’d turn me round, turn me round and off he went, you know. And I remember my Mum having to tell me that he had been killed. And I always think of Adam and I try to go out to the service if I can. I mean he wasn’t the only man in the village but there was quite a few really, you know for the size of the village. Because there was the boy Amos, Dores and Jowitt, there’s quite a lot of them. So it was quite sad really, you know, but we were, we were lucky here. We had lots of soldiers billeted round about, you know. And we never had a bomb.

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