She worked seven days a week for a princely £2 per month

Alan Mason's grandparents, Sandy and Emily Bruce, taken around 1945 and also shows Alan and his Auntie Margaret.
Alan Mason's grandparents, Sandy and Emily Bruce, taken around 1945 and also shows Alan and his Auntie Margaret.

Last month I told you how my mother’s family came to Fordel Mains in 1935 from East Lothian and how she worked on the farm there for a time, writes Alan Mason (Dalkeith History Society).

After a year, my mother’s sister Mary became old enough to start work, and my mother went into service at Oxenford Castle as a scullery maid.

Twenty staff worked in the castle looking after 80 girls in the private school which was based there, as well as Lady Eglinton, Lady Menzies and Lady Marjory Dalrymple, the three grown up daughters of the Earl of Stair, who lived in the house. She worked from 6am till 10pm, with half days on Wednesdays and Sundays – on these days she only worked from 6am till 2.30pm – all for the princely sum of £2 a month! After some time there, she went into service in Edinburgh, to work for Mr Milligan, a lawyer who later became a judge and an MP.

Incidentally, I spent the first few years of my life in a cottage at Fordel. My mother lived there with me, my Auntie Emmie Sneddon and my cousin Billy Sneddon. My Dad and my Uncle Bill were both away serving in the Army. The cottage was about 100 yards away from the steading, beside the road that leads from Fordel to Whitehill, where a bungalow now stands. Not surprisingly, our cottage was demolished some years ago – my mother said you could see the stars through the holes in the roof! My Dad came home and we lived with my Granny Mason for a time in Woodburn Drive then my folks got a house in Spalding Crescent.

So what was happening in the wide world in 1935? In January, “the King” Elvis Presley was born and later provided the soundtrack to my teenage years. In March, driving tests were introduced. Before this, anyone could jump into a car and drive around; thank goodness there weren’t too many cars on the road. Also in March, the 30mph speed limit was imposed and petrol cost 1/6 (7½p) per gallon. In October, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and in November the Tories won the General Election and Stanley Baldwin once again became Prime Minister.

In Dalkeith, Johnstone’s in Eskdaill Street were selling women’s wool jumpers for 1/11 ½ (10p) and pit boots for 10/6 (52p). Baird’s sale in Feb 1935 advertised men’s tweed suits for 30/- (£1.50) and little boys’ overcoats at 4/11 (50p). The Co-op (“the Store”) offered “efficient service, splendid quality and keen prices”, with mince at 8d (3p) a pound and butter at 1/- (5p) a pound. Dalkeith Agricultural Society held its annual Ploughing Match at Kippielaw, an event which drew 50 entries.

In February, a woman was admonished in the Burgh Court for failing to report to the police that she had found a £1 note. George Dick, the Burgh Prosecutor, said that since the beginning of January £7 had been reported lost and only £1 had been handed in. He said, “If you lose money in Dalkeith, there is little chance of getting it back.” Some things never change!

In the same court, a 15-year-old boy was fined 2/6 or five days in jail for ringing door bells and running away.

The Advertiser reported that Lord Lothian had generously offered to hand over Newbattle Abbey for use as a residential education college. His offer was being considered by British Institute of Adult Education. Progress was also reported on the new housing schemes at Woodburn and Shadepark, which between them employed 109 men.

Also in February, John Dennis the Builders complained about cars parking in White Hart Street (where the footpath runs from the library to South Street now). They said the street was so busy that they couldn’t get their lorries into their yard. Councillor Gibson agreed and said that he had sometimes seen as many as nine cars parked there.

We should be so lucky!