Memories from Eric Davidson

Growing up in Ancrum Village in the Scottish Borderland

My name is Eric William Davidson. I was born at Lanton Mill Farm on the 13th September 1937. The youngest son of Peter and Isabelle Davidson formerly Paton. I have an elder brother Thomas Paton Davidson who, has a joiner’s business in nearby Jedburgh.

My family moved to Ancrum Village in 1941 to the address No1 East End. Now known as No 1 The Knowe. This was a council house and the first in a row of twelve on the left when entering the village from the south.

The other families at that time occupying the other council houses in consecutive numbers were: -

Mr & Mrs Eddie Bradley, (Ironmongers) their daughter Marion.

Mr & Mrs John Scott, (Postman) their daughter Betty.

Mr & Mrs Tom Hosie, (Millworker) their daughter Nancy & son Tom.

Mr & Mrs Tom Michie, their daughter Nancy & son Andrew.

Mr & Mrs Jack Turnbull, their son Jackie.

Mr & Mrs Charles Hilson, their daughter Helen.

Mr & Mrs John Thompson, (Newsagent) their daughters Mammie & Wilma.

Mr & Mrs Bill Chapman, their sons Robert & Roy & daughter Janie.

Mr & Mrs John Charters, their daughters Ann, Mary, Margaret and Joanne.

Mr & Mrs Bill Ballantyne, their daughters Betty, Charlotte & son James.

Mr & Mrs Tom Hogg, (Joiner) their son John.

The boys of the village and my mates were: -

Ian Kennedy, son of the Joiner.

Roger Veitch, son of the Butcher.

James Dickie, son of village Policeman.

John & Billy Barnes, sons of Council worker.

Dennis Mabon, son of factory worker.

Roy Chapman, son of factory worker.

Billy Irvine, son of Business Proprietor.

John Hogg, son of Joiner.

Eric Fairbairn, son of Publican.

The girls of the village were: -

Helen Hilson

Marion Bradley, daughter of Ironmonger.

Jane Chapman.

Ann, Mary, Margaret and Joanne Charters.

Betty & Charlotte Ballantyne.

Bunty Barnes.

Betty Patterson.

Jessie Petrie.

Famie Allan.

Moira Patterson.

Betty Hewitt.

Isa Thomson.

Mary & Molly Dickie.

Joan Biggins.

Businesses in the Village were: -

Tom Veitch, Butcher.

Bob & Tom Wight, Butchers.

Robert Allan, Baker. (known as Robbie Dough)

James Kennedy, Gents Tailors.

Thomas Hogg, Joiner & Undertaker.

Adam Kennedy, Joiner & Undertaker.

Alan & Beryl Parker, Post Office.

Janet Turnbull, Shop Owner.

Ina & Mary Bradley, Shop Owner.

Hogarth Fairbairn, Publican.

Gilbert Borthwick, Policeman.

James Dickie, Policeman.

Will Ford, Garage & Taxi Service.

William Gracie, Minister.

Peter Gunn, Minister.

Peggy Kennedy, Justice of the Peace.

School Days

My teachers at Ancrum School were: -

Jean Lawrie, Infants She travelled from St Boswells.

Mary Kennedy, Juniors she came from Glen Douglas.

Jean Stewart, Head teacher, lived in the School house.

Miss Beddie, Music teacher she lived in the village next to the School house.

Miss Scott, P.T teacher she lived in the village next to the School house.

The school consisted of two classrooms and a spare room which was used for children who travelled in by bus to have their lunches in. Just after the war ended a corrugated hut within the school grounds was converted into a kitchen and all children could have cooked meals if they wished. Mrs Wilson from Ancrum Mains was the first cook and she had a son Ian and a daughter Pat who were at the school.

The bus that collected the children from as far as Lanton and the Grange on the Denholm road, was provided by Will Ford at the Garage.

In 1948 I left Ancrum School and travelled to Jedburgh Grammar School by bus, this was supplied by Mathew Moore from Jedburgh. We met the bus at the main A68 junction road end from the village, then travelled into Jedburgh collecting children from the villages of Nisbet and Crailing together with outlying farms.

Things we did for Pleasure and fun: -

We would swim in the river Ale at places named the Cauld Pail near the Old Mill and the Pot behind the School house.

We would climb into the many caves around the village.

We would attend at Farmers fields when a Finishing was known. That was when the binders reached the centre of the field cutting the corn. Rabbits were trapped and killed for food during the war days and if not for family use, they were sold to the butchers.

We would ride on the rear of the hay carts as they passed through the village from the fields to the farm.

Roll our Easter eggs on the Manse field.

The 5th November always saw us bringing in dead wood from local areas, usually towed behind our bicycles, together with anything from our homes that would burn.

We would gather both red and yellow Raspberries from the Common Land.

We would fish with our nets and rods with worms on bent pins, in all the small channels near Ancrum Mill. Later when I grew older, I fly fished on the river Teviot with my father.

We would play football and cricket on the village green. On many occasions we were joined by both German and Italian prisoners of War, who were based nearby at a camp near Croupyet. War wounded based at Monteviot also joined in the sports. Local volunteers from the Forestry Commission occasionally joined in.

We played football on a proper pitch at Bridgend, usually against other villages or schools.

Around 1948 I joined the Boys Brigade in the village hall, where my brother Tommy was a Lieutenant and Jock Galbraith was the Captain. I was taught to play the bagpipes by Tommy Elliott, a rabbit catcher who lived next to the pub. I later joined the Jedburgh Boys Brigade Pipe Band. I cycled twice a week to Cleikemin, caught the Hawick bus to Jedburgh for rehearsals.

The happiest days of my childhood at Ancrum were being involved in the farm at Copeland. The farmer was William Couts Hunter, a true gentleman and he took to me as a fatherly figure and allowed me to engage in all activities. At the age of nine I could fix all the harness onto working shire horses, fit them into a cart and deliver food to the animals. I mastered the art of driving tractors on an old Fordson and more modern Fordson Major. By the age of ten I could plough, harrow, sow seed and roll a complete field.

I particularly enjoyed working with the shepherd Alec Anderson during the lambing season, when we would stay out all night in a make shift shelter of straw bales and tilly lamps. I travelled to the sheep sales with Will Allen in the farm lorry and occasionally got the chance to drive the lorry on the private farm drive. Dan Allen as my mentor, he taught me everything I know about farm machinery and he was a true friend. Still alive today as I pen this account at 90 years of age.

The visit by the Jethart Callant to Ancrum (Little Lovely) was always a night to look forward to. I was particularly proud as the only village lad to have completed his bag pipe training and got to lead the parade through the village with the pipe band.

In 1949 at the age of 12 we left the village and moved to Jedburgh, to save my father who worked in the North British Rayon Factory, having to cycle there every day.

In 1952 I returned to the village to work in the Garage as an apprentice motor mechanic for Tom McDonald.

In 1955 I was called up for my National Service in the Royal Air Force. During my time in the Air Force I met my wife Marjorie who issued flying equipment to RAF Swinderby No8 Flying Training School in Lincolnshire. In 1958 we were married in her home town of Bolton. Which is where I joined the town Police Force. I served 30 years as a Police officer in Bolton Borough Police, Lancashire Constabulary and Greater Manchester Police. At the same time, I was selected for Reserve Army Service. I retired from both in 1988.

I was fortunate to follow my police career with Sonic Communications Birmingham, completing my working days as the National Sales Manager with Home Office Contracts retiring in 2002.

During my retirement I have been appointed as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County of Greater Manchester, received an MBE from HM in person and been awarded Honorary Freeman Status in my adopted town or Bury in Lancashire.

Eric William Davidson. MBE. DL