Auld Earlston is currently gathering memories from local residents on their war memories or those passed down by their parents and grandparents - in preparation for the forthcoming October Exhibition on the theme of "Earlston at War and Peace".
We are grateful to B. who has given us here a vivid account of life as a land girl at Georgefield Farm, Earlston in 1944-45.
Being Called Up
"I was living in Edinburgh, left school at 14 and was working in a lawyer's office when I was called up in 1944. I was given the choice of becoming a FANY - joining the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry or the Land Army. I chose the Land Army as it was always the one organization that appealed to me. I was delighted to be given the choice, as my sister was just conscripted into Munitions with no alternative offered."
Working on a Poultry Farm
"It was a huge change for me when I was sent to Georgefield Farm in Earlston, looking after the large poultry section - cleaning out the hen houses, feeding the hens who were free range poultry, and rounding them up at night to shut them away from prowling foxes. I became strong there and could heave around 100weight sacks of meal.
We started work at 7am and finishing time depended on the time of year. In winter we shut the hens up around 4pn but in the lighter nights, it could be midnight before we finished. After the grain was harvested, the hens were sent into the cornfields and it took ages to get them back in the hen houses. It was amazing what you could see in the moonlight - we had torches but you were lucky if you could get fresh batteries for them. For those long hours, I can never remember getting paid more than £2 a week. We had a uniform of khaki breeches, a V-necked pullover and a brimmed hat."
The view looking north from Georgefield Farm - taken in January 2018.
"Four or five of us lived in a bothy on the farm and we ate well - all on the rations. One of us took it in turns to return to the bothy to prepare our midday meal - often macaroni cheese or mince and tatties. I had not done any cooking before, but I soon learnt on the coal stove. A great perk was that we were allowed a dozen eggs a week, which I often saved to take back home for my weekends off. Everyone heartily disliked the dried eggs which were part of the staple wartime diet, so fresh eggs were a big treat. We never ate chicken the whole time I was there. If the chickens were sick or injured, they were killed and put in the incinerator. It was only after the war, I thought "Why did we never get it to cook?"
Food shopping (all on the wartime rations) was done in the village - at the grocers' shops - Willie Park's, Tom Bell's, Forrest's, or Taylor's.
We felt we were much luckier than the other land girls working on the arable crops at Georgefield. They were based in a hostel at Bemersyde, so much more isolated than we were; they were brought to the farm in a van and had to prepare ahead their sandwiches for lunch - boringly jam, spam or cheese. "
We had a good deal of freedom. as we could get easily into the village; we went to dances, often twice a week in the Corn Exchange, and enjoyed listening to the Polish Band. Drink wasn't served at the dance, and it was never a problem in the village. The evening finished with the playing of the Polish and British national anthems.
We took the bus into Galashiels (return fare 1/6 - one shilling and sixpence). We got every second weekend off and I often went back home to Edinburgh - 5/6 return (five shillings and sixpence) on the bus.Sometimes on free weekends we took the bus to Carfraemill. Hotel. 5 shillings was the maximum by law that could be charged for a meal and we would get high tea for 4/6 there - fish and chips, or ham salad, with bread, scone or a toasted teacake.The whole of the war I only had two dresses which I wore alternatively. If you wanted to get a new winter coat, that took almost all your clothes rations for the year. It helped to have a father or brother who could pass on their unwanted coupons."One of the girls in the bothy had a gramophone and introduced me to opera - "La Boheme" and it has remained a great love of mine. We had no radio to find out what was going on in the world outside, but one of us took it in turns to walk into Earlston to get a newspaper - usually the Daily Herald or Daily Express."
V.E. Day"In 1945 I was sent to a dairy farm near Chirnside. I hated it, especially the noise of the milking machines. We had a room in a farm cottage, but there was no privacy. The only washing facility was in the kitchen which we shared with the family."
"For me my war had ended. For my family it was not a day for celebration, but a time for reflection and remembrance of my brother who had been killed in action"
"In Earlston, I met my husband who was home on leave. We married in 1948 and Earlston has been my home now for 70 years".
The Women's Land Army was a British civilian organisation, created during the First and Second World Wars, to recruit women to work in agriculture, replacing men called up to the armed forces. At first volunteers were sought. but numbers were increased by conscription. By 1944 the Women's Land Army had over 80,000 members across Britain. It was officially disbanded in 1949.
A World War One Land Girl
On the left - A Land Girl in the Second World War
with an Air Raid Warden on the right. (Not Earlston)
Do you have any war memories, or ones passed down to you from your parents or grandparents. If so, do please get in touch, as we would like to hear from you.