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Kirkton House

It was said that the house was haunted which probably accounted for the housekeeper’s fear of staying alone in the place at night. We youngsters had been well briefed on the infamous Major Weir who had lived at Kirkton and my mother would tell us of the apparitions seen by guests who had the misfortune of being allocated a certain room on the first floor which was reputed to be Major Weir’s room.


This room held a fascination for us and we would sometimes test our nerve by opening the door and running in to the window alcove where a cardboard document with some wording on it hung. The test was to shout out loud what it said on the card and get out of the room and down the stairs as fast as you could go in case the Major got you. I can still remember what was printed on it:

There was a grass tennis court on the railway side of the house and a secluded lawn with flower beds surrounded on all sides by high hedges. The main garden was on a slope facing south with black, red and white currant bushes and raspberry canes. It was a joy to sit there in the sun and take in the scents of fruits and flowers. There was a large greenhouse structure with a coal or anthracite heating system which helped to produce black grapes from vines growing just below the top panes of glass.


The grounds and house were patrolled by a black Scotty dog and a black cat. The dog’s name was pronounced Doonya, I believe it was a Gaelic name - possibly Donia and the black cat was called Wonky.


My mother used to have a group photo (now lost) showing the pre-war staff which from memory was around about six or so, however by the end of the war the resident staff had been reduced to only one i.e. Mary Macrae.


One of the pre-war staff in the group photo was one Lizzy Marshall, Lizzy had twin girls perhaps a year or so younger than me and she lived in a cottage just beyond the RAF hangars on the right hand side of the road to Castlehill.


There were some trees on the Station Road side of Kirkton just about opposite Bill Marr’s house and I must have found an easy way of climbing onto the lowest branch of one of them. It was from this vantage point one day that I saw an old man come down Station Road, he was carrying a pole with a large Union flag over his shoulder, ringing a handbell and shouting out something quite unintelligible to me. I had no idea what he was shouting about but it transpired that he was a town crier announcing that the Japanese had surrendered and the war had finally ended.


I never liked Mrs Phillipps, she came from Edinburgh and was quite a forbidding lady with a high pitched voice – we boys kept well out of her way! One day, she overheard me asking my mother for a piece of cake and I was subjected to a lengthy lecture that when she was a girl her family only ate cake on Sundays.


She always addressed my mother by her first name and my father by his surname, something I’ve never forgotten! However, she must have had some redeeming features for my mother seemed to get on well enough with her and they corresponded with each other until Mrs Phillipps died.


Captain Phillipps on the other hand was a quiet dignified man who addressed both my parents by their Christian names and from time to time took the trouble to talk to us two boys. In 1950, they left Kirkton and moved to Burn House near Galashiels but before the flitting he took us to his study and told us to choose a book each from his bookcase. I still have mine; a boy’s adventure story entitled “Both Sides The Border” which had been given to him by his godfather as a Christmas present in 1898.

©2013 By kind permission of James Nelson

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Created before 2012