BNC Text K7D

Oral history project: interview. Sample containing about 4010 words speech recorded in educational context

2 speakers recorded by respondent number C654

PS5PU Ag4 m (Tommy, age 54, Interviewee) unspecified
PS5PV X m (No name, age unknown, historian, Interviewer) unspecified

1 recordings

  1. Tape 125201 recorded on 1983-05-16. LocationLothian: Inverness () Activity: Interview for oral history project interview, reminiscences

Undivided text

Tommy (PS5PU) [...] ...
(PS5PV) [1] Monday sixteenth May
Tommy (PS5PU) [2] Monday
(PS5PV) [3] nineteen eighty three.
[4] Mr Tommy Inverness.
[5] Can I ask firstly Mr when you were born?
Tommy (PS5PU) [6] August ... the sixth nineteen twenty nine.
(PS5PV) [7] Now was this in Tormore?
Tommy (PS5PU) [8] In Tormore House er by Lochassynt.
(PS5PV) [9] In Sutherland ?
Tommy (PS5PU) [10] In Sutherland.
[11] That's correct.
(PS5PV) [12] And how long were you in fact ... there?
Tommy (PS5PU) [13] Well up until the time I would be about eight years old ... when my father decided there was a change in the estate then and it was off to Argyllshire Dalmally that Sir Douglas and Lady as she was then decided to go and wanted my father to come with him.
[14] But him being from up there and my mother also and their people were still alive which was my grandparents on both sides they were very reluctant to sort of go.
[15] But when a job came he he would be wanting a diff different ... shooting ground in in Argyllshire comparison to the hard rocks of Sutherland.
(PS5PV) [16] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [17] Pine pastures green to the tops of Ben Dorain and and up Black Mount where the Craig estate took it was it was in their estate.
[18] So therefore my father was very keen to go too.
(PS5PV) [19] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [20] And that's how we decided to go.
[21] So Dalmally I should safely say was my first schooling.
[22] Even though I was about eight and a half.
(PS5PV) [23] Mm.
[24] Now your father was the the stocker at Tormore is that right ?
Tommy (PS5PU) [25] Yes he was the stocker at Tormore.
(PS5PV) [26] Who was he employed with then?
Tommy (PS5PU) [27] Well the estate er er er the Duke of Sutherland had the whole of Assynt and then h General Stewart who was born in Nedd and worked and made his fortune if it was as you would say in Canada on the C P R.
[28] Canadian Pacific Railways and he was able to take a lot of people from the place he was born in ... out to Canada.
(PS5PV) [29] Mm.
[30] ... What d'ya recall of your early days with your father at Tormore?
Tommy (PS5PU) [31] Pardon?
(PS5PV) [32] What d'ya recall of your early days at Tormore with your father?
Tommy (PS5PU) [33] Well ... he was a very active man my word he would soon go right from the house to the top of [...] as you would say because we had sheep then.
[34] And if he saw a sheep that shouldn't be where they were and the gentry about to come within days he would soon get them down.
(PS5PV) [35] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [36] Without a collie dog.
[37] And well I remember hearing about it and and saw it probably as I grew up myself.
[38] So he was [...] and it had it's Tormore House was really a lovely place.
(PS5PV) [39] Did the did the gentry come fairly frequently to the estate?
Tommy (PS5PU) [40] Yes.
[41] Oh they came up with their servants all servants up from the south by train to Inverness and then a charabanc or vehicle of such that was in it then because it was only metal roads we had then.
[42] But they were good metal roads that took all the traffic.
[43] Well I remember at that time the steam roller that was just doing the road outside Tormore House and many's the day I was trying to get on it with a very good friend of ours that's now dead.
[44] A Hugh .
[45] No [...] relation but a great friend of ours.
[46] He was a steam roller driver.
(PS5PV) [47] Mm.
[48] ... And were the gentry in er Lochassynt Lodge or was it Tormore?
Tommy (PS5PU) [49] No Lochassynt Lodge.
[50] That's right
(PS5PV) [51] Lochassynt
Tommy (PS5PU) [52] that's right.
[53] And my mother er went to help them in the lodge in the season time also.
(PS5PV) [54] Fr from that time can you recall any incidents which er your father may have mentioned to you even as a young boy?
Tommy (PS5PU) [55] Well
(PS5PV) [56] Or stories about the the people that were there or
Tommy (PS5PU) [57] Well
(PS5PV) [58] passers by?
Tommy (PS5PU) [59] ah well yes the passers by will will remember being on the road side the famous tramp.
(PS5PV) [60] Aha.
Tommy (PS5PU) [61] The gentleman of the road.
[62] My word and me just as a little boy of eight years.
[63] I was no fear of being frightened of them because they were part of the establishment.
[64] And well did the gentry know that too.
(PS5PV) [65] You mentioned that you were perhaps more scared of er ministers.
Tommy (PS5PU) [66] Well yeah ministers er.
[67] When I think of it nowadays and I see children so very going round to the various churches that when people used to say about ministers well.
[68] When you heard there was a minister coming I was just afraid and looking to see would you see that dark black clothed individual coming.
[69] And even that seemed a [...] but thinking of the old tramp and he was in a a sort of all belaggered looking way.
[70] My word but you weren't frightened of him because you were told that he was an old man and one of the road men of the road.
[71] And there was no fright to be taken from him.
(PS5PV) [72] Is it correct to to say that the tramps actually used to make a special point of coming to to see your father ?
Tommy (PS5PU) [73] Oh yes.
[74] Made a special point of coming there because they knew my mother would give them a bowl of soup or what was ever on.
[75] She was baking fresh scones hot cakes anything that was going.
[76] And my word they enjoyed it well.
[77] They wouldn't come in they wouldn't come into the porch even.
[78] They would sit outside wait in that days we had a seat out in the and even if was a seat for sitting outside they would sit on their own way or on a rock.
[79] No they just had their own way of life and you wouldn't change it and they had stories to my father.
[80] They would tell sing where they came from and who they saw and all the way up they came.
[81] And they would be looking for a bed for the night and it would be in the old ... hay shed that we would put them but there wouldn't be a problem.
[82] It was in the winter time so it was full of hay but they would be very careful and we would ask them that they had no matches in case er there was no cigarettes much and that but pipes [...] they were pipe smokers.
[83] Old clay pipes with black twist.
[84] But they would soon tell that they would have their before they would go to bed and thanks er very much when getting the bed and you could er vouch for that they would never.
[85] But the odd one yes we saw the odd one but they were very odd.
(PS5PV) [laugh]
Tommy (PS5PU) [86] Aye they were very odd.
(PS5PV) [87] Y you refer to them as mile stone inspectors.
Tommy (PS5PU) [88] Mile stone inspectors and gentlemen of the road.
(PS5PV) [89] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [90] And there's a story about the late Duke of Portland when he was travelling up to to [...] estate where his lodge was.
[91] There was many's a tramp that would have taken the A nine then but this one in particular and he was very very fond of him and he would ask when he was around to that he would get over to see him.
[92] And when that poor tramp perished out on the roadside one severe winter or spring time the Duke found out where it was and to this very day there's a little mound and a stone put on it.
(PS5PV) [93] That was the er Lord of Caithness I think Tommy that the stone was.
Tommy (PS5PU) [94] Yes yes that I'm referring to yes.
[95] The Lord of Caithness.
[96] I cos I can't picture another stone you know on any other roadsides and I've been on plenty that and I travel and no and I can never know of another st stone that was put up to a tramp.
[97] Anywhere in the north as far as I know.
[98] But that one was and I heard a year ago but I never saw it till the bus driver I went with some years ago up to John O'Groats.
(PS5PV) [99] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [100] And going up to to John O'Groats and right into past Castle May where the Queen Mother has and into the church where sh where the royalty goes when they're living up in up in Castle May [cough] At er well er Johnnie Groat is buried there too.
[101] There's many a person Johnnie Groat to my name.
(PS5PV) [102] From these young days that you spent in Tormore can you recall how the tramps actually looked?
Tommy (PS5PU) [103] Oh they they
(PS5PV) [104] How would you describe them?
Tommy (PS5PU) [105] Erm the tramps?
[106] Well fearsome looking
(PS5PV) [laugh]
Tommy (PS5PU) [107] wild looking as you would say it now.
[108] But but the very opposite to what people would er er th think of them as regards people now.
[109] And that's ordinary people.
[110] But but they looked wild because they would have long hair beards a [...] and and all oh my word they were wild looking but er.
[111] And probably it was cold weather they would have two or three coats er you know.
[112] And jackets probably below and their little bag of stuff.
[113] Whatever they were carrying.
(PS5PV) [114] They they generally came all year round?
Tommy (PS5PU) [115] Yes oh yes generally came.
[116] Ah but they always watched th they would be in some place over bad storms you know.
[117] Er er er you know if there was a bad storm somebody would oh you better stay here today too again and he might be there three or four days.
[118] So he would still stay there because he was told about the weather.
[119] And he would know himself.
(PS5PV) [120] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [121] You see it's not what er anybody else would say that it was good weather.
[122] He they knew that they had a great sense of the weather themselves after being out in it.
(PS5PV) [123] Did they ever mention to you or your father that they in fact got caught out by the weather?
Tommy (PS5PU) [124] Oh well sometimes yes they would be very wet when they would come.
[125] And when they would offer to no no they wouldn't they would have their own way of drying it in in their bags they would have another clean or or you would say clothes to put on but we never ever heard of them doing a washing [laugh] .
(PS5PV) [126] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [127] Or whatever.
[128] Well they would be discarded.
[129] It's it's like I I better not say say this but Irishmen over that when when I when I used to work with Irishmen my word they was good Irishmen.
[130] Very good friends of mine.
[131] But they would work they would never see them with dungarees.
[132] They came with a good suit on and they would go to work with a suit double breasted and then and they would [...] work there and make a lot of money and when the next thing they would do they would hit into town and get all rigged out and then that was them from top to bottom from their hat right to their feet and then they were hitting the road then.
(PS5PV) [laugh]
Tommy (PS5PU) [133] Yes I could say that that's true about Irishmen.
(PS5PV) [134] Mm.
[135] The the tramps never mentioned some of the places they were actually forced to stay whether it was under a road bridge or?
Tommy (PS5PU) [136] Oh oh yes they yes they would stay under a road bridge too because you would see the er er if you would look a a bridge and they would say oh there's a tramp [...] there's a place there if you could tell me and you would see the rocks put up and where the bed was always above water level oh yes.
(PS5PV) [137] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [138] Below the certain bridges.
(PS5PV) [139] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [140] Depending how far away a house you see was and how they would be.
[141] But never two of them meet together.
[142] We we you never know that.
[143] They would be always er passing.
[144] They didn't go round like that they were very loners as you would say.
(PS5PV) [145] And what happened say
Tommy (PS5PU) [146] They would never
(PS5PV) [147] were there ever occasions when there was one or more in your hay loft?
Tommy (PS5PU) [148] No no I don't think ever I can remember.
[149] I th well I think er there was once or something but he he passed he didn't know that this er was so then they passed on.
(PS5PV) [150] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [151] You see one stayed but he was there before him and the other one carried on.
[152] No they would never they would never blend together.
(PS5PV) [153] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [154] Like whiskies [laughing] blend [] .
(PS5PV) [laugh]
Tommy (PS5PU) [155] No no they would never.
[156] They were they were very very fine people.
[157] And and the tinkers that came there.
(PS5PV) [158] Mhm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [159] Er wouldn't want to but from from [...] there was there was one lot.
[160] And there were and the women folk would have their haberdashery and the men were tin smiths.
[161] They would make pails and basins like you were being requiring in your sc er scullery or in the milk house as you would keep milk there.
[162] So they were all and very industrious looking.
[163] But they had for the winter time they their houses to go to.
(PS5PV) [164] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [165] And they were just coming round in the summer.
(PS5PV) [166] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [167] And their horses and my word they fairly looked after their animals mhm.
(PS5PV) [168] Did the crofting people have any special name for the the tinkers?
Tommy (PS5PU) [169] Not really no.
(PS5PV) [170] You've never heard the term summer walker?
Tommy (PS5PU) [171] Er er no no I could never say that.
(PS5PV) [172] Or mystery folk or?
Tommy (PS5PU) [173] Er well
(PS5PV) [174] Celts.
Tommy (PS5PU) [175] as the years came on they were beginning to get mystery fo folk but er not in my time.
[176] Well that sort of people that was coming.
[177] If ones came as [...] in little wee pi pickups we called them the little lorry things you would sort of keep your eye very much because you didn't know they were looking for scrap and if you told them you had nothing they might go away with your iron gates or something.
(PS5PV) [178] This was during the mid thirties?
Tommy (PS5PU) [179] Oh yes I would say that yes that was coming more that way yeah yeah.
[180] Coming more that
(PS5PV) [181] How about the individual er tramps?
[182] Did you ever have bye-names for these characters?
Tommy (PS5PU) [183] Well th th there was one Joe Wrench.
[184] Er but I don't know what's that.
[185] But somebody so told me aye and I said that was a funny name or was it else's then.
[186] Well I said I remember a man called Joe Wrench and but er oh I wouldn't er but one [...] said oh Joe Wrench is very black looking.
[187] Well the bugger is just coming on and he was cleaning the car down hosing her car so he says I turned the hose on him.
[188] Well the hose landed on him alright but it landed on his parcel and it the whole thing fell out on the road.
[189] So there was a bit of
(PS5PV) [190] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [191] among the few people that saw that happening.
[192] But er he was quite a character the man that did that.
(PS5PV) [193] Did you ever have an opportunity to to see what the tramps actually carried with them?
Tommy (PS5PU) [194] No well I could never say I I was kept well away out of the but my father probably might have seen
(PS5PV) [195] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [196] in his bag.
[197] Well I think it would be a change it's when they're when they're when they're jacket would be wet they would have another
(PS5PV) [198] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [199] jacket in the bag.
[200] So whatever he and if he was dumping anything oh er er they would ask the father said er just er to dump that.
[201] They wouldn't be left with a whole pile of stuff or er.
[202] No oh no they or they would dump it in a place where nobody would see it you see.
(PS5PV) [203] And when they were coming along Lochassynt were they making for anywhere in particular?
Tommy (PS5PU) [204] We we well er er see they were on their rounds and then they'd be going round by Nedd and [...] and probably Scourie they were just doing their circular.
[205] Aye they had their places for.
[206] Yes it's amazing aye.
(PS5PV) [207] And did you have ever a chance to gain some sort of insight into their backgrounds?
[208] Who they were in fact?
[209] Where they'd come from?
Tommy (PS5PU) [210] On some cases yes because I was always told this man he that used to come and he was so clean looking and that he was a barber.
[211] Well that er er er an Englishman that he was trained as a hairdresser.
[212] As a man's hairdresser.
[213] But somebody er whatever he no he didn't carry anything to to do that no.
(PS5PV) [214] But that's what he's he told you?
Tommy (PS5PU) [215] Oh yes but he told somebody that he was a hairdresser.
[216] And you would see that they were very some of them intellectual people.
(PS5PV) [217] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [218] Too and who knows how they went to the road.
(PS5PV) [219] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [220] Did they fail in their exams or something or went to drink or.
[221] It's said nowadays about drink but I don't know.
[222] They they were quite er learned men they weren't numskulls you know.
(PS5PV) [223] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [224] So something just peculiar at that very time put them to the.
(PS5PV) [225] Did they ever do any form of casual work?
Tommy (PS5PU) [226] S some of them did yes if they came in the springtime and then in the ar in in the harvest time.
[227] Yes oh some would w w work but some wouldn't.
[228] Er and if if they would work they didn't want money for it but they would stay a while with you so that they would get their bed for the night and they would get their grub.
(PS5PV) [229] Mm.
[230] What type of work did they [...] ?
Tommy (PS5PU) [231] Well they would take in er er er they would er er and they would put hoe potatoes you see when that was coming on that time.
[232] And they would help to lift potatoes and they would er stack corn and hay.
[233] Oh yes and that's those only that would do it but you wouldn't get the ordinary man taking any he would just be on his rounds.
[234] And you wouldn't say oh I think it's going to be wet today John you better stay.
[235] Not him his his mind was made up on going and that was it.
(PS5PV) [236] And were you visited by the peddler the pack-man character
Tommy (PS5PU) [237] Yes.
(PS5PV) [238] who sold goods [...]
Tommy (PS5PU) [239] Oh oh yes er er who who sold.
[240] Er there was one chappie that [...] er erm I can remember of him and he had a suitcase and well he had a shaving soap I suppose cos people used soap then with your shaving brush and and that and proper shaving brush and razor blades probably that quite.
[241] Yes but I remember right a [...] .
[242] So it was things that wasn't too heavy to carry but things that was always needed in a house and that you could run out of.
[243] When we were er were living all on the road so we were expecting to be supplied by vans.
(PS5PV) [244] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [245] And my word there was plenty of vans in them days.
[246] Both getting butcher meat.
(PS5PV) [247] What even in the thirties?
Tommy (PS5PU) [248] Yes oh yes er er when we had a wee baker's van coming up from the Nedd to Lochassynt when when [...] Lochassynt Lodge you see.
[249] So these people that had little private shops in them days did well because when the people came to the lodges it all the commodities were bought to as well as them.
[250] It's not like nowadays when people has big fridges [...]
(PS5PV) [251] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [252] [...] buy their stuff away down south and take it.
[253] But no they would buy it there aye .
(PS5PV) [254] So provisions were bought fairly regularly in those days.
[255] There wasn't the same er bulk buying that you see nowadays ?
Tommy (PS5PU) [256] No no there wasn't the same.
[257] But only well we would get it buy it in bulk ourselves supplied by er Hamiltons of Glasgow
(PS5PV) [258] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [259] and it would be coming on the steamer McBrayne's steamer and
(PS5PV) [260] Up to Lochinver?
Tommy (PS5PU) [261] Yes to Lochinver yes and that same steamer would be calling in Kinlochbervie and all the villages and this traveller for Hamiltons would be going round beforehand and you would be getting a hundred weight of sugar and tea it would be in a big tea box er er probably er er Ceylon coming from Ceylon but you the whole or you could buy a small quarter.
[262] But oh yes you would buy all that stuff in bulk.
(PS5PV) [263] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [264] But that stuff that was in bulk but you would never er no perishables no peri
(PS5PV) [265] Mm.
[266] ... Can you recall in those days Tommy how people kept perishables?
Tommy (PS5PU) [267] Well er er there were it was big caverns that'd be underground.
[268] If there was a big bank at the back of the house they would have a hole just dug out and er built up with flagstones
(PS5PV) [269] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [270] and therefore it was when when you would go in there it was quite cool.
(PS5PV) [271] Mm.
[272] Even in the Summer?
Tommy (PS5PU) [273] Well wonderfully cool.
[274] They would they would watch where they would where they would excavate this thing out
(PS5PV) [275] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [276] from.
[277] But yes it was wonderfully cool.
(PS5PV) [278] Mm.
[279] And the produce was salmon ?
Tommy (PS5PU) [280] And the prod it was it was sort of kept as within a reason of time of course it wouldn't.
[281] But er and of course stuff was salted.
[282] Venison
(PS5PV) [283] Venison of course.
Tommy (PS5PU) [284] you you buy er salt it away in barrels in boxes and and work on it until it was through.
(PS5PV) [285] Now was that your father's own particular task the the salting of the venison?
Tommy (PS5PU) [286] Oh oh oh n no really I can't say that.
[287] Er we only probably did it when ourselves we got venison beforehand on the last shooting and to keep.
[288] But no no er there was so many hinds having to be shot in the winter time and and and it would be sent away you see.
[289] But not away what they're doing now or but it'd be sent down to their premises down in the in the shooting lodges in the south.
(PS5PV) [290] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [291] And that [...] and to their friends.
[292] And there would be always a beast or two cut up for to be given to the village.
(PS5PV) [293] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [294] Oh yes that was one thing.
[295] I always remember that.
(PS5PV) [296] So where did the venison actually go to?
Tommy (PS5PU) [297] Well it well ah but ah but they never they never killed it in that quantity as they're doing it now.
(PS5PV) [298] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [299] To make money.
[300] No no there was no money made of it.
[301] It was just for their for their own use.
(PS5PV) [302] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [303] And haunches of venison that was the best part in the [...] they would be sent away to themselves [...] the haunches.
[304] But the other parts with the ribs and all that'd be cut up given to the and the lodge itself for the.
[305] And all the estate men first of all would get everything.
[306] And all the crofters then that was paying rent.
(PS5PV) [307] In those days how many people were actually involved on the estate?
Tommy (PS5PU) [308] Well there was a lot of people involved on the estate because they had to repair paths.
[309] They had to keep the river streams all flowing and if there was any deluge of rain and stones they would have to keep all the pools in good order and they would
(PS5PV) [310] The pools?
Tommy (PS5PU) [311] Yes the pools.
[312] That's the salmon pools
(PS5PV) [313] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [314] you see.
[315] And they would have barriers going out so that they could so that the gentry could go out to stand on that ladies and men.
(PS5PV) [316] To cross the the
Tommy (PS5PU) [317] Yes just yes you see
(PS5PV) [318] the streams .
Tommy (PS5PU) [319] it still on the the rivers.
[320] But now it's made of stonework or or concrete.
(PS5PV) [321] Mm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [322] Now and that cos that's the only thing that could stand
(PS5PV) [323] Mhm.
Tommy (PS5PU) [324] to the weather.
[325] But er that's the way.
[326] And the and the paths repairing at the riverside and all the bushes round the lodge.
[327] And the gardener there was always a permanent gardener but he was he had enough to do but the estate men would be sent up to clear that.
[328] And painters and joiners they would have themselves.
(PS5PV) [329] All self-contained?
Tommy (PS5PU) [330] Yes self-contained yes.
[331] There'd be a joiner and he'd be engaged in a [recording ends]