Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Sharing Memories - The Spittal Trip

   Written by Inez Polson in 1991  

The excitement started  days before - "Are you gaun tae the Trip?" was on everyone's lips.  "I hope ii's no raining or misty".  (What a worry!)  "Will the tide be oot or in when we get there?". 

By Friday, the whole village was excited - not just the children, but  mothers, aunts, uncles, Sunday School teachers (from both churches), retired policemen and helpers of all ages.  Old sand shoes were hunted out and the toes cut out to make waders.  Schoolbags were washed or brushed to carry extra food, spare pants, socks and towels, Spades and pails were examined to decide if they needed replacing.  Travelling rugs were aired, Everyone scrubbed the night before and went to bed early. 

At last, it  was "THE MORNING"!  It was off to the station - a motley crew of some hundreds of all ages. Pandemonium reigned until everyone found their class, and mothers  found friends and relations.  The train came puff-puffing in, blowing steam and tooting. Station Master, Guard and Porter opened the doors as fast as they could and we all thronged in.  Doors were banged shut, the whistle blew and we were off. 

We cheered for everything we passed - the level crossing at "Gates Cottage", the wood yard and Town Farm.  There were some complaints from those who did not have windows seats and then we would cheer for Gordon Station and the quarry, for Greenlaw, Marchmont and Duns.   

There was usually another train standing at Duns and some anxious moments till we safely past by.  Even though there wasn't much at Edrom and Chirnside, we cheered for them, and because Reston was a "junction", we gave it a special cheer, even though some of us were none too sure what a junction was, as we could only see some cattle trucks and coal trucks.  

Everyone crowded to the left side windows near Burnmouth for the first glimpse of the seas, and we were sure we could catch a salty smell from it.  If we had been anxious at Duns, we were very nervous about the crossing of the Border Bridge and looking down on the Tweed.  But that was forgotten as we steamed into Tweedmouth Station, collected our picnic bags and were escorted safely over the lines for the long walk down to Spittal. (Many's the picnic bag consumed before the tea was poured.!)

When mothers, grannies and the odd father were installed on the beach to protect all the belongings, spaces and pails, were brought into action and castles built and knocked down, ball games were started and races run.  Although it was too dangerous to swim, we waded and paddled on even the coldest of days.    Before leaving the beach, we ate the last sandwiches, even though they seemed to be a little crunchy from the sand!

It was a long drag back up the hill, with tiredness, sunburn and sea air all taking their toll.  At the station we  couldn't understand how the train had turned around, but older boys used technical words like "loop lines" and "turntables" and "coupling up" to try to explain.  All back into the train with cries of "Where's Willie?" and   "You had the window the last time", and a green flag and a whistle started us homeward.

Too tired for cheers now, but we could still raise a "Goodbye Sea", "Goodbye Sand" and "Goodbye Spittal!"  And to add to the treat, we were going home a different way by Velvet Hall signal box and the other side of the Tweed.   Unfamiliar station names flashed by, but when we saw Kelso and Roxburgh,  Rutherford and Maxton, we knew that Newtown St. Boswells Station and Leaderfoot Bridge were getting nearer.    As we drew up in a cloud of steam at Earlston, the white station fence was lined with "Dads",  and friends who weren't on the trip came down to see us come home.   The train doors opened and out poured tired, sunburnt, sticky, cheering  children - the Spittal Trip was home. 

Inez died in 2009. She was born in 1914, so her memories of the trip are probably from the mid 1920s onwards.


Footnote:  The Spittal Trip took place on a Saturday in late June.  We are not sure if the switch to buses was caused by the war, or the floods of 1948 that closed the railway line east.   When was there a change of destination to North Berwick?  Has anyone any further information, on the Spittal Trip or on other train journeys.  

                 Auld Earlston would love to hear from you to share your memories.
                                           E-Mail:  auldearlston@aol.com


  Photographs of the Spittal Trip from the collection of the late Rev. Duncan 



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