Rural Village to Suburbia

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Mary : born  1917

I was born in Main Street. Mearns village was made up of Main Street, Barrhead Road and the Cross, some houses on the main road and a few big houses: the bungalows came later.   There were three grocer’s shops: one was the Cooperative in Barrhead Road and another nearer the Cross on Barrhead Road was run by Mr Bowman. The other at the top of Main Street belonged to Mr Pollock, who was known to us as “Snowy” because of his white apron which was spotlessly clean.  In the middle of Main Street was a “Jenny a’-things” shop belonging to Mary Osborne: she sold everything from bundles of sticks to hairpins and jelly babies.  All sweets were loose in bottles, and there were no wrappers on chocolate.  Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate came in long bars for one penny each; they were in cardboard boxes and looked like gold to me.  There was the baker’s where you could go at 5 in the morning for lovely warm rolls.  There were two butchers and a draper’s shop run by Miss Polly Peterkin.  There was an ironmonger’s where we got paraffin oil for our lamps, and anything from farmers’ boots to china.

In Main Street we had a Marble Arch; there really was no arch but you went through an opening called a pen then through a close to houses at the back.  It was like a rabbit warren of houses. At the foot of the Main Street there was the Tea Pot Close: when I was young I never questioned why it was called that, but since then I have heard it was because the women took their pots and teapots to be filled by the spring water from the Tea Well at the foot of the Tea Well Brae.  

When I was five, I started at Mearns Primary School, which then was just the original building with Primary 1-3 downstairs and 4-6 upstairs.  There was a special class with about three steps up to it: that was what we called 3rd Year, and you had to be very clever t o get into that class.  I left at 14 in my second year.  I enjoyed school on the whole.  We had a building outwith the main building where we went for cookery lessons: I enjoyed that.  We always called that building the Cookery Room.  It was there that the janitor’s wife made a great big boiler of soup which was sold for a penny a bowl with a slice of bread: there were no school dinners.  Science was also taught there.  We had a school choir and it won a cup at the Greenock Festival.  The boys had their football and the girls had hockey, so we had plenty of recreation.

I went to the original Church on the site of the present Church.  I went to the Sunday School there and we had a Junior Choir.  We used to do operettas like “Princess Chrysanthemum”.  As we had no TV or radio when  I was young, going to the Church Hall to practise our songs was great: I loved all that.  My happiest time was when I joined the Brownies.

We’re the Brownies.  Here’s our aim:
Lend a hand and play the game.

I felt I was very special when I was dressed in my uniform, which then was a straw hat with an elastic under our chin to keep it on, the dress much the same until they changed it a few years ago, and a big yellow tie knotted under our chin.  We played games and did all the tests you do now.  Camp fire songs were a must: we sang our hearts out.  Some of them you still sing to this day.  We also put on concerts where we did little plays, and I remember singing a solo.  I moved up to become a sixer of Gnomes, then we had a wand with a figure on top the shape of a gnome; we danced round the toadstool singing our different themes.  Mine was:

We’re the happy little Gnomes,
Helping Mothers in our homes.

We closed by singing

Day is done, gone the sun
From the Earth, from the sea, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest.  God is nigh.
Brownies vanish.!

We had soirees where the Junior Choir sang, and there were some recitations from those who went to elocution lessons.  There was a break for tea, and we got a bag of buns from the local baker’s.  There was always a Paris Bun, a fruit cake and an icing cake; you always took home what you couldn’t eat.  When leaving the soiree everyone got an apple or an orange going out the door – that was a tradition.

We also had the Band of Hope on a Friday evening, where we got lantern shows: that was a highlight of our week.  You got a penny to spend, and you bought as much as you could for a penny: something that lasted.

Then the great occasion was the Sunday School trip: no coach trips then! Mary Osborne’s shop I mentioned always sold the tinnies for the Sunday School trip and sandshoes near the front hanging out at the door.  It was horses and carts and buggies: they used to be lined up in the Main Street, and when you got older you always looked for the best dressed horse as the farmers used always to decorate the horses’ harness with flowers, and their tails were brushed up with ribbons tied on them.  So when we all got settled in our cart we set off singing all the choruses we knew all the way there.  Also at the trip we got a bag of the usual buns and cakes and milk to drink (no juice).  We had prizes for races, and the drivers of the carts and the gentlemen Sunday School teachers had a tug-of-war.  It was always a farm we went to, and the further away the farm was the better we liked it.  On our return home we did as much if not more loud singing, and it was always a very happy day.

As you know the last thing they took away from Mearns was the Cross.  It is very sad indeed to see that superstore built over the Cross.  As you can see from pictures Mearns was a lovely village, now gone.  There were also the outlying hamlets like Hazelden where there used to be a lace work up near Mearnskirk Hospital.  There was a row of houses called Thimble Ha’, where there are now private houses with a name nothing like the original.  Thimble Ha’ had its characters.  Netherplace factory is still there but the houses are all gone except the ones built lately.  And of course Tofts used to have the work before it moved to Netherplace; the gas works was also there.  You may have seen the old house Green Side at the corner of Greenlaw Road and Crookfur Road: that used to be the Manager’s house of the works and is one part of old Mearns that is left.  It’s a grandson of the manager that still lives there.  There were also two tearooms.

Games were the usual skipping and ball games, peever and boy’s girds, kick the can.

One yearly highlight was the cattle show.  It was held in Crookfur playing field.  The farmers all brought their horses, cows and hens to be judged.  Then there was always a gymkhana in the afternoon.  In the evening there was a fair – the shows as we called them – great excitement.

There used to be a small school up at Loganswell with one teacher: it was for children of farmers and outlying houses.  When that school closed the children were bussed to school, and the teacher, a Mrs Bell, came with them.  There used to be another small school at Mearnskirk, which closed earlier.

The transport used to be what they called horse-buses that took people to Giffnock for the train to Glasgow.  Then they moved to a charabanc bus.



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Work in Mearns in the 1940s

We only had three roads, Barrhead Road, Main Street and Kilmarnock Road (now Ayr Road).

There were actually lots of jobs in the Mearns as shop assistants. There were five grocers shops an electrician, two butchers, three hairdressers, two newsagents, two bakers,  three tearooms, an ironmonger, a chemist, one drapery shop, and an up-market ladies’ shop. The co-op had a drapery department, and it sold clothes, shoes and  furniture. Mearns Co-op was a branch of Barrhead and you could go there, or to the Scottish Wholesale Co-operative Society (SCWS) in Morrison Street in Glasgow with a line from Mearns. We also had a shoe shop, two banks, a cobblers,a  fruit and flower shop, a fish and chip shop and two sweet shops. There was an Inn,  a market garden, a police station, a post office, an ice cream cafe and vet.
As you can see there were lots of jobs and that is not counting Mearnskirk Hospital, Andersons Garage and Netherplace dye works.

If your father was a bus driver, the first  thing he did when you left school was to put your name down for a job in the office at Mearns bus garage depot.

While telling you about the shops we had in the Village, I thought you might be interested in the social side of the village in the forties. After finishing third year at Mearns School we could continue with night classes at Eastwood School (now Williamwood),  three nights a week for English, arithmetic and shorthand. If you attended the night classes you could go on a Wednesday for dancing, table tennis as a social evening which only left Friday and most us had household chores to do then. On a Saturday we could go to  the Tudor Ballroom in Giffnock

After we outgrew the night school we went to the Tudor on a Wednesday. We had five cinemas within a four-mile radius.

At sixteen you could join the Girls Training Corps held again at Eastwood School. In the Village itself we had Boys Brigade. dances and young farmers’ dances, also church socials when all the family could go. We held concerts and had kinderspiels, (an evening of entertainment by the children attending church, singing, dancing and monologues etc.) These were before the war in 1939.

For teenagers we had a cafe cum  chip shop where we were made welcome to have crisps, lemonade arid very seldom did we have any trouble but of course the owner stood no nonsense and we had the village bobby Mr Brandy to keep order. There was another cafe at Mearnskirk where the restaurant is now, this meant we had a somewhere to meet our friends without having to hang about outside in the streets.

The dances and socials were all held in the Mearns Parish Kirk hall which at that time was opposite Mearns School. It is now the synagogue and of course did not cost anything to hire, just a donation to the lighting and heating. We also had the Fairweather Hall that was gifted to the Mearns people where lots of activities took place.

When you've read what we have written, I think you will realise that we were much better served than we are now, and that was before we had a shopping centre.. Now we have a huge shopping mall but you can't buy buttons, thread, wool, nails, wallpaper, paste or paint.

When I left school there was no opening at the bus depot so I got a job with W & R Holmes in Dunlop  Street working with books. However when I had been there some time, a job as a cashier became available. When I worked there I had an hour and a half for lunch and I could come home and be back in time.  Because we had a bus terminal, you could get any bus and the bus service was every fifteen minutes. Now it takes nearly an hour and half to get to town.

The school building that could have been used as a community centre has been sold to build yet another car park.



Rural Village to Suburbia

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An settlement in the vicinity of Newton Mearns can be traced back to the 13th Century. This settlement was possibly sited at Robshill, clustered round a wooden castle built by Herbet Maxwell, approximately where the Robshill Court flats are today.

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