The Banff and Buchan Collection

William McKinnon and Jean McKinnon, Peterhead, 21/01/1994

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NEFA 1994.007.01   Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Farming today
S: WM would not know what the machines are for on a farm today. They grew oats, hay, neeps. They would have to buy in grass seed, manure and lime, but they could not afford to buy much. They just had enough milk for themselves. [Jean McKinnon comes in.]

NEFA 1994.007.02   Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Food and milling
S: They would have bought the eggs in and sold sheep to raise cash for manure. They did not eat much beef or mutton. Cows were kept till they were three, or so, then sold on. The oats were harvested with the binder and the mill would come round. Latterly they had a thrashin mill of their own. The grain was ground at the local mill; you would get meal, dust and sids for the hens. Some millers kept part of the yield, others sent a bill.

NEFA 1994.007.03   Transcription
P: William McKinnon and Jean McKinnon
T: Jean's work
S: JM's father worked on a farm. Jean worked for the estate. WM not too keen on the chalets they are planning to build at Aden Country Park. Jean used to work for the factor's office, at Crichie. Her wages book is still at Aden. There were written contracts for the farm workers in the book, going back to the twenties. There was only work for one on South Reidbog.

NEFA 1994.007.04    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Memories of Jean Mathew
S: WM still cannot remember the tune for 'Newton's Hash'. His brother's song book was made later, but the song, by his sister, Jean Mathew, was made during the war. WM's brother got his songs from his sister.

NEFA 1994.007.05    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Siblings kept songbooks
S: [Goes through siblings' song books.] There are some Irish songs in them. Several song titles mentioned.

NEFA 1994.007.06    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Strathardle
FL: In a far foreign land I am prowlin

NEFA 1994.007.07    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Song notebooks

S: The notebooks contain a wide range of songs.

NEFA 1994.007.08    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Houses and peat cutting
S: Their house, in his youth, had an open fire, no range, and a bink which held a big pot and a kettle. They had two sweys. The peat was won from the top side of their arable ground. There are two ways of cutting peat: downwards, or from the front (breistin) with a peat spade. The first turf was taken off and lain below the face as a surface to stand on. At the end of the war, the coal merchants sold peats as there was a shortage. They dealt with about 15,000 barrowloads of peat (twelve peats per barrow). WM did not wheel the barrow so much, because they could get three barrow loads on a sledge. The peats were five by six by twelve inches when freshly cut. They would shrink about fifty percent when stacked to dry. They were tipped from the barrow until they dried enough to handle, then they were stacked in rickles of about twenty to dry completely. Then they were taken out in a cart. When the coal men bought them, they would drive the lorry in over the sod. The lorry could not stop, or it would have sunk in.

NEFA 1994.007.09    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: More on peat cutting
S: They would keep their own supply at the house, in a stack about eight feet high, by ten, by sixty feet, or more. WM's mother carried that in by bucket. Cutting was done around April and the peat ready in in September. 3000 peats would take around eight hours. 1000 barrowfuls in eight hours, but you could not do that the first day. [End of Side A.]

NEFA 1994.007.10    Transcription
P: William McKinnon and Jean McKinnon
T: Farm diaries
S: Jean has twenty five years of WM's father's farm diaries. He made an entry every day, starting with the weather. Jean mentions entry about driving peats for sale in Longside. It became too expensive to keep the horse shod for this to be profitable. The smith would not come round, you had to take the horses to them. An estate would have had a smiddy, but he also took in outside work. There was one at Clola. Jean reads entry from diary. The diary has settled many's an argument over the years.

NEFA 1994.007.11    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Father's farming life
S: WM's father was a farmer most of his life, though he drove on steam engines with Jimmy Sutherland, Peterhead. He was brought up at Cruden, but was fee'd at farms around Ellon. He could have taken over the Yetts thrashin mill in Mintlaw, but he opted for farming. They had coal on the farm only for the steam engine of the mill. They would neeper, helping out one another as required during milling. A woman cut the sheaves atop the mill. The band was usually cut with a sharp knife, sometimes one that was strapped to the hand. One man fed in the stuff, the other oiled the bits. There were two lowsers feeding the man who would spread the sheaves out as they went in. Thrashin the whole crop took about a day and a half at most. When WM was very young, they got a barn mill.

NEFA 1994.007.12    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Tying sheaves
S: Tying bands for the sheaves was an art form, but the binder did that with twine. You would have to redd the roads, clear an edge strip round the field, for the binder. A handful of straw was twisted, wrapped around the sheaf, then tucked in around the sheaf. Jean's uncle from London could not tie the bands and had to use twine.

NEFA 1994.007.13    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Tying knots
S: They used to tie knots without thinking how they did it. The long-laced kilt shoes are not easy to tie. They were at a wedding once at which one of the men put on his kilt entirely wrong.

NEFA 1994.007.14    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Song notebooks (more)

S: [Looking through the song notebooks again.] Months after WM's sister had died, Jean heard his sister's voice on a television quiz show. "The Dowie Dens o Yarrow" is a lovely song. [WM hums the tune.]

NEFA 1994.007.15    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: The Dowie Dens o Yarrow
FL: There lived a lady in the South

NEFA 1994.007.16    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: The Dowie Dens o Yarrow (cont.)
S: [Stops singing to say that part does not make sense. Continues singing.] He would need to rehearse it before recording it properly.

NEFA 1994.007.17    Transcription
P: William McKinnon
T: Scarborough's Banks
On Scarborough's banks a young damsel did dwell
[Looking through the song notebooks again.] Sings a verse or two.


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