the joys of the young farmers' recreation was the annual barn dance. The place where many
a young farm labourer first met the girl that would later become his wife. It was held in
a decorated and clean-swept granary. Forms were brought from school or hall, or specially
prepared bunches of straw made good seating. Twelve weeks before the dance well-groomed
farm hands and neatly dressed young women attended dancing lessons from an instructor, who
was also a fiddler. He commanded strict obedience from his pupils. Woe betide the lad, or
lass, who erred. He explained the bow then all the various sets of a dance. Then, thumbing
his fiddle, he gave the command, 'Up lads noo! Up lassies too! Twa in a line noo! Let ilka
ane boo!' Then he would half sing. '"Ta tiddleum, ta toodleum. . . . Toots Maggie
ye're a wrang you! Fine ye're a' richt noo!" Set till ilk ither noo! Turn round aboot
noo! Ta Tiddleum, ta toodleum. First frae tap noo! Doon the middle noo! Stan' back Wull
Broon, you! Jine haunds noo! Ta Tiddleum, ta toodleum. Dammit, ye he'vy fitted gowks, back
t'yer places and get yer bre'th! Ta tiddleum, ta toodleum.'
pupils loved the fun, loved the teacher and, true to his word, he had them up to scratch
and dancin' fit for the farm granary dance with its charming reels, waltzes and set
Friday evening early in each December the three smiddy fires were damped down at Jeck
Robertson's smithy at Balmullo. The old railway sleeper floor was swept and trestle tables
erected. At seven o'clock all of the oil lamps were lit. Jimmy Nicholson, the carrier,
arrived with a load of 'goodies', boxes of oranges, dozens of black buns, scores of round
slabs of shortbread, many ginger cakes, packets of sweets, tubs of apples and crates of
fruit juices. People from all around made for the smiddy. It was the annual raffle for the
festive season. Penny and bawbee tickets were in great demand. The prizes were: (1) twelve
oranges and six apples. (2) Slab of shortbread and a ginger cake. (3) Assorted fruit and
sweets. The bawbee prizes were mostly for youngsters and were normally fruit and sweets.
After a swift half-a-dozen draws for the smaller value tickets came the 'ticky'
(threepenny) wagers, with four prizes. By half-past eight the fun was really on. 'Tanner'
(sixpenny) raffles with baskets of everything from the stall and a bowl of nuts thrown in.
The smiddy raffles were excellent get-togethers with happy people, laughter and fun and a
prize of some kind for everyone. Jeck Robertson, at exactly nine-thirty, opened the
nail-studded smiddy door and out into the cold trooped the Balmulloites with their
'goodies'. Come weather fair or foul, the raffle was held and at the end of the day no one
was disappointed. The smiddy door was shut. Then no one grudged the hardworking organisers
a drop of the 'hard stuff after their hectic time.
grandfather, James Rodger, possessed a fine sense of humour and the following are two
stories which he claimed were true and were often told in the village. When church
discipline was strict long ago and members, for misdeeds, were brought before the Kirk
Session, one minister was so alarmed at husband and wife quarrels that he called a meeting
of all married men in the parish. It was decided that all married men be rowed out to the
Bass Rock in the Forth for one month. The day came and all married men took to boats,
rowed to the Bass Rock and settled down quietly. Three days later there was commotion at
Largo Pier. Twenty wives took to boats, while a dozen attempted to swim to the Bass Rock
to bring back their husbands. The parish minister was alarmed. He ordered the swimmers to
be picked up and the women in the boats to return to harbour. Word was sent to the
contented husbands on the Bass Rock to come home. On their return a service of reunion was
held at Drummochy and all lived happily ever after.
is why,' Grandad would say when ending this story, 'couples live peacefully in Largo
second story had a sea background. A sailor, after two years at sea, returned to Lundin
Mill with his loud-mouthed parrot. He stayed with a family called Davidson. The parrot
chatted, chirped like a blackbird and swore at random. One day the minister knocked at the
there?' shouted old Davidson. Like a flash, the parrot screeched, 'Th' auld damned
Davidson was brought to book, but his plea was, 'Minister, I never uttered a word!'
man we watched each morning had a special cycle made with a long padded seat from the back
along the bar to the handle bars. He had his cycle close to the wall, mounted very slowly,
tucked his jacket up and drove off very slowly all the way to Cupar. He had an exacting
job. He believed he had a 'glass bottom'. His actions proved it, for in his office he had
a special chair, and he carried a cushion in a briefcase when going for his lunch. He was
a clever, well-spoken man, but did not mix with the villagers. One day as he was cycling
to work a young farm servant smashed a bottle on a dike. The cyclist threw himself on to a
grassy bank - crying and wailing, 'My bottom is smashed.'
lifted onto a cart and taken home. Doctor was called in. It took the man a long time to
recover from his phobia.
time was a time of greatest activity in the market gardens. Pulling berries, peas, cutting
lettuces, cabbage and cauliflower, or gathering early potatoes, carrots and turnips,
picking sweet peas, sweet william and other fragrant flowers.
there was the woman 'Worthy'. Children called her 'The Witch', and we ran from her. She
was a kindly, lovable person, but to us 'The Witch'. She hated thunder. One evening, at a
quoiting match, the air was sultry and hot. All at once a loud clap of thunder rent the
air. We hurried home, as we did not want to get wet if rain came on. In the distance we
could see 'The Witch' rushing up the road, skirts over her head, red petticoat showing.
She was mumbling and at times screaming. Boys got pieces of tin, or pot lids to add to the
confusion of the rolling thunder. The poor soul ran by instinct up Tea-pot-Close, into her
house, no doubt cursing the god of thunder. Many boys got smacked by their mothers for
annoying 'The Witch'. I could plead innocence, though inwardly I enjoyed the fun. No rain
fell, the thunder ceased, so boys hurried to the quoiting pitch to see Balmullo win the
excitement took place at General Election time in 1910. My father was Chairman of the
Liberal Group. The Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, was the Party Candidate for our area.
I delivered the newsletters, dates of hustings and posted up bills. Father, being an
excellent speaker, moved to villages around, including Dairsie, where Mr Seath, my
Headmaster, was Chairman of the Conservative Group. At one meeting in Dairsie Hall where
Mr Seath spoke in favour of Colonel Sprot, the Tory Party Candidate, my Father said, 'No
one wants a Tory Candidate who knows nothing but Army Regimentation. I move a Vote of No
Confidence in him. Vote for a tried Politician. Vote Liberal.' Great was the applause.
day, at school, just after Scripture, Mr Seath said to me, 'Tell your father to stick to
Balmullo; he talked a lot of nonsense.
bold and said, 'Yes, sir, I will do that. He got a grand welcome last night from Dairsie
Liberals. I was there.'
countered with, 'Get back to your seat. You are your father's parrot!'
was calm and I enjoyed my lessons, until the election results came out and Asquith had a
day Mr Seath was quiet, until he said sharply, 'Take that smirk off your face. I know what
it means. An upstart Englishman is our new MP - some MP!'