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Childhood in Carluke

Carluke is situated in the lowlands of Scotland, in South Lanarkshire in moderately urbanised country with arable farming around us, 22 miles from Glasgow and the surrounding metropolitan townships serving Glasgow and Edinburgh at the north end of the county. Spanning a rich history from medieval times to the peak of the industrial revolution, the tobacco barons of Glasgow, then heavy steel and coal industry throughout Lanarkshire brought great wealth and employment, education and architecture to the county. That's the textbook version.

Raised as a child of the fifties, I always thought it was too cold and wet to be a lifer in Lanarkshire and so I left for southern England when I was able. Then many years later after experiencing the daily monotony of weather in California and Arizona, coming home to Scotland has made me realise, it's not so bad. But tell that to a lad walking back frae school in the wat. There is so much more too that's different. In the fifties, personal vehicle ownership was much much less than countries with higher GDP, most folks used public transport, in the days when British Railways employed millions and bus services were more frequent. Today the picture has inverted. Many more families own one or more vehicles and public transport has waned, to the detriment of the poor who now have a lesser service available to them.

When I first went to school we were living in an old tenement building in Hamilton Street across from the blacksmith shop and just up from todays CPHS heritage centre. I used to watch the blacksmith every day as he shoed huge Clydesdale horses easily six times taller than me. I can remember the bottom of Hamilton street with its grocer shop at the corner with Lanark Road and then a few doors up, new in the 1950's - Mr Adams's TV Shop. Our family bought a TV from him in '54 I think. Then when I was aged seven we moved to a new council house in Elderslea Road, with bedrooms and inside toilet !
Elderslea faced onto the Wilton Rd and Mayfield brickworks before its demise and eventual demolition in 2012-13.
Beside the brickworks was the black shale bing, grown over with grass, which became our playground. Across was Mayfield Row, a small street of eight ajoining one-room cottages which still had outside water butts to catch rainwater.

For the next two years I continued to go to the 'wee' school between Clyde St and Station Rd but then the new primary school opened at Eastfield Rd in '59 and that was just five minutes walk from home. That also leads to the stream which crosses Carluke known as the Ministers Burn and with its steep sides and overhanging trees there was lots of trouble for a young lad to get into in those days without drawing the attention of police or punishment.

From the top of the Mayfield bing you could see all over Carluke. We used to dig trenches in the blaes and chase each other over the edge of the bing onto the side which was being excavated as fodder for the brick making mill; before returning home to our evening dinners and a skelping for coming back filthy with the black dust and our shoes full of the oily shale.
In the fifties the brickworks was coal-fired and at night a watchman walked along the top of the kilns, spooning coal into the feeder vents and then replacing the steel lids before moving on to next. There was a regular clink of the lids all night long.  Then next day the fireman would break open the mud seals to the arched kiln doorways and vent the heat. - some time later other men would enter the searing heat to manually remove the cooked bricks. This was all before palletised and mechanical handling of bricks. Back breaking and intensely hot work for little wages.  Often during the winter, dossers and gentlemen of the highways would sleep in the warmth of empty kilns if they could sneak in unobserved. We did not know them by name but some were common visitors seen all year round.

Heading south towards Braidwood on country roads took us to Braidwood pond, a disused clay pit filled with water which had a green scum over it, nicknamed the GreenHole. Its sides were sheer and we stayed away for fear of falling in but tossing rocks in was a pass-time which made paterns in the scum. Also due south of our homes about two miles away was Butterhole cave via fields of cows and sheep. Walking into the cave was easy, being almost head high but it shelved downwards and the height reduces quickly to only allow a crawl for the brave, plus the rocks strewn around were thick with a muddy paste and there were beer cans and detritus everywhere with a human stink so it was not  a fun place, more a challenge or a dare to go inside. On sunny days we guddled for minnows in the burn to bring home in jam jars. Thus, as mischievous as we were, it was  basically country kids life and by enlarge we were harmless and I don't remember any of us ever getting hurt or arrested for our antics. Those times of innocence seem to have been lost these days.

At 12 years of age I qualified to go to Wishaw High School and then at 18 did an engineering degree at Paisley College of Technology, graduating in 1972. Sometimes it takes years to realise how lucky we are and it was only when I started travelling the world and talking to my peers in other countries that I now understand my upbringing in a clean new house provided by Scottish local authorities, my essentially free education and freedom to seek my own way in the world marked the end in a chapter in Scotlands social history.
Carluke Market Place unchanged much since 1900
Read more stories from the Featured section
Old Newsletters (the next story in sucession)
A History of Jam Making in Carluke
Bamlett Horse-Reaper Machine (video)
Burns 100th Celebration
Camp Coffee
Carluke Bus Services

Created before 2012