School took up five days of the week and on most dry Saturdays many boys worked in market gardens for about six hours, the rest given over to fun. I always loved Sunday. We were up early and by nine thirty a.m. all the family were ready for Church. We had three and a half, perhaps more miles, to walk along a path by a small stream. We had to go through five small field gates, on to a rough road, then by fairly good road, through the little village of Logie to the United Free Church. It was a tiny building. Our family were: Mother, Father, John, James, David, William, myself and later my sister Netta and my younger brother Angus. Mrs Jean Millar (then Miss Melville), was the organist (no salary then). Jean and four or five of her family attended also. There were other families from Balmullo and many farms and homes around. The Minister was the Rev Thomas Chrichton, later, the Rev Dr William Hamilton. The singing, mostly psalms and paraphrases, plus hymns later, were sung with great enthusiasm. The prayers, like the sermon, were so very, very uplifting. From earliest years I dearly loved the Church and have never ceased to do so.
Back home about one o'clock, Mother did not take long to heat up the broth made the previous day, boil potatoes, cut up the cold meat that had seasoned the broth and warm up some rice, or ground rice pudding. Meal over, we did not get out to play. We read books - no comics then - completed our school home work - then at half past three it was Sunday School time, in Balmullo Hall. Children from other churches, Logie parish church and some from the two churches in Leuchars, took part. We had a superintendent and three lady teachers.
The last meal of the day was at half past five and usually was bread, butter, home made jam, one scone and one cup of tea. Tea was very dear then. Before bed-time - usually nine o'clock
- we were allowed out for a walk, with Mother or David, while John and Jim studied. Sunday was a relaxed, mind clearing day - something young people in cities missed.
One delightful Saturday event in summer was the Sunday School outing to Kinshaldy Sands. For most this would be their only yearly away day holiday. Farm servants polished and decorated the harness, groomed the horses to perfection, painted the corn carts - the means of transport - and the men too, were dressed for the annual occasion. Children were attired in their best clothes, mums and grannies looked forward to the fun. Straw covered the floor of the cart; padding made seating easier for the elderly to sit on. The youngsters sat on the straw. Six or seven corn carts took part in the cavalcade. A coup cart carried hampers of food, cans of milk, crates of lemonade, prizes and all that was needed for games.
It was a lovely sight: cheering, flag-waving children, beaming mums and grannies and bigger children walking alongside the corn carts. Everyone was so happy, the five miles did not seem long and we youngsters, already hungry with excitement and dry through being noisy, were anxious to sample the good food and drinks. As we arrived at the picnic field Mr T.C. Henderson of Vicars Forth Farm would, as always, judge the best turned out team of horses, harness and corn carts. Modest prizes were awarded by Mrs Henderson who was presented with a gift. Then this was followed by seemingly endless back-slapping, hand-shaking, cheering and praise for the winners plus more and lengthier commiserations for the runners-up and losers. We children wanted to have our picnic and probably could not fully appreciate the seriousness of the judging for those involved, even when we saw tough workers cry with joy or sorrow at the outcomes.
At last, journey's end. Soon tarpaulins were spread on the ground and Sunday School superintendents, teachers and their friends set to work and handed out bags which contained cake, cookies and sandwiches. Milk or lemonade was also served to children from huge pottery jugs. An advance party had an urn of tea ready for the grown ups. The women seemed to drink gallons of it and talk endlessly - at the same time - to each other joyfully and with much laughter. Only after the horses were uncoupled from the carts, had their trappings off, their halters on, had been watered, fed and put to run in a nearby field did the men in the party think of feeding themselves. Then they had pies, filled bridge rolls and lashings of tea in a much quieter but just as happy a way as their womenfolk.
Our first meal together was over all too soon. Then for we young ones it was boots or shoes and stockings off and a race over the soft warmy-wet sand into the cold water of a slow incoming tide. Rangers were in position to see the children did not go too far into the sea. When the mums and grannies arrived, they had a canvas shelter rigged up to hide behind as they took off their boots or shoes and hitched up their clothes. This was the moment the men were waiting for and they taunted, 'What dirty feet you ha' Maggie,' and, 'Tuts Jess, ye'r red bloomers will get wet,' or if the girl was plump, 'Don't fall into the sea, Kate, else we'll a' be droonit.'
Some of us were too young to understand the remarks the women made by way of reply but some of them really swore at the men tormenting them with personal remarks, much to the delight of we children who were not supposed to understand and to the pretend shocked looks of the minister!
While all the talk was going on, one or two young men got behind the canvas shelter and mixed up all the shoes and stockings, even filling some stockings with pebbles, whelks, mussels and shells. The 'row' afterwards was noisy and one farm servant after another was blamed for the wicked deed! It was glorious fun! Bigger children rejoiced in the hilarity, but the smaller children played joyfully making sand castles or mud pies and decorated them with shells.
The games were intensely interesting. A riot of fun and laughter. Races of all kinds including egg and spoon (with china eggs), three-legged, sack, skipping, hopping on one leg, backward, blindfold and for the big boys and girls there was a marathon race of two hundred yards along the damp sand. For the men and women of all other ages the great excitement was in the Tug of War, men against men, women against women, the winner of each heat in the final. They were keen but a lot of cheating went on to ensure that the men met the women in the last game. There was a mock struggle by the men and when the women were in their last gasp, the men stopped, the women piled on top of each other, the crowd shouted a spirited, 'Foul,' and there were mock 'Oohs' and 'Ahs,' or the occasional, 'Shame on you men!' The women were then declared to be the winners by the judges for the men's unseemly treatment of them and there was much pretend indignation by the men with witty rejoinders from the women.
The time passed all too quickly. Prizes were handed out; every child got something. Then the long awaited shout from the announcer through his megaphone, 'Back to the canvas for tea.
Rev Broom, the minister, arrived. He spoke of the joy of a picnic and the record of Sunday School attendance. Then he prayed and prayed and prayed. It seemed as if he mentioned every fish in the sea and every grain of sand by name, until a loud voice roared, 'The water in the urn is near boiled dry!'
Dear Rev Broom heard, took the none-too-subtle hint in good spirit and said, 'Amen.' We naughty children cheered.
There was plenty to eat and tea, lemonade or milk for all who wanted it. The meal over, horses were caught and harnessed to the corn carts. Votes of thanks were said, all children were ordered into a long line across one side of the picnic area and were asked to walk across it and to pick up every scrap of paper, which a man burned, and food litter. Food scraps were strewn along the shore. In seconds the seagulls devoured the lot.
One incident I overheard was laughable. A young English lad from Manchester was in the picnic party by invitation. He laughed at the fun until tears ran down his cheeks. Near the end, he was very silent and a young farm servant asked him if he was all right.
'Oh yes,' he said. 'But I cannot see any urinal.'
With a puzzled look on his face the worker queried, 'What kind o' a beest is that?' The young lad whispered an explanation into the farm servant's ear who then retorted, 'Oh! Is that a'! Every bush round aboot ye is that thing!'
The return home was quieter. All were full of joy, having had a warm sunny day. There would be lots of stories to tell in the long winter nights to come - of the big fish seen in the sea, the crabs, lobsters, starfish, also of the daring swims and games we enjoyed. Imagination was a grand thing for some who had few treats in their lives. Pride of place must go to the farm servants, elderly and young, for the excellent display of groomed horses, decorated harnessing, corn carts and to the farmers for allowing the men a day off with wages. I believe that each man also received ten shillings. Money subscribed by the parents, the two grocers, 'Cynicus', and other well-to-do local people, helped to make the Sunday School Picnic the event of the summer.
A very important day stands out in my life during the summer of 1909 when I was eleven and a half years old. The Rev Thomas Chrichton, Minister of Logie and Gauldry, told the congregation he had hoped to be a missionary at Livingstonia in Central Africa, but that medical boards had turned him down on three separate occasions owing to a heart condition. After the church service, three children, including myself who formed his Junior Bible Study Group and loved his instruction and the way he made Bible characters come to life, heard more from him about his disappointment at being rejected on health grounds for Livingstonia. Suddenly he said, 'Perhaps one of you will go to Central Africa one day in my place?' He offered a prayer, his words were so slow and appealing, he nearly had us in tears.
After the Benediction, I stood up and said, 'When I am big I will go.'
Mr Chrichton smiled, patted me on the head, 'Thank you, Alex. I will remember this day.'
I never forgot my promise.
This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993. All rights reserved. Used here by express permission.