hours at houses and shops, cowboys
and indians. Here was where we built our bonfire on bonfire night,
and we would collect old furniture and junk from people to build
it as high as we could. Very often the junk we collected became
treasures for us; for example, one year I recall we collected
an old three piece suite and a piece of carpet. We made a small
fire, placed die carpet in front of it and arranged the suite
around it. There we sat in comfort baking potatoes in the fire.
Then one of the boys we knew had collected an old out-of-tune
squeeze box which we all had a go at playing — thus we were well
entertained for yet another evening, simple pleasures but priceless
and never to be forgotten.
The crowd of boys and girls we mixed
with all stayed around the same area, known as "The Bottom Pans"
and the boys and girls who stayed up at The Shrine or the top
end of Prestonpans were known as "Top Fanners". We rarely fought
or argued with each other, but some of us went to the pictures
in Tranent and were sometimes set upon or chased by children of
our own age who we called "The Belters" — a name which Still stands
today if you come from Tranent. My own father was a Belter and
my brother and I failed to mention this to our pals, who at the
time would be cooking up plans to get the Belters paid back for
what they had done to them.
The building which is now called Eskplan,
used to be a tyre factory. My father was employed there and I
used to go over at half past twelve with a flask of tea and sandwiches
for "my da" as we called him. I would often share his piece with
him, and we would sit on the wall adjoining the factory over-looking
the beach and feed crusts to the seagulls. Often my da would make
us swallows — birds made from black rubber, which he made from
spare bits of tyres melted down, and we would attach elastic to
them and play for hours. When the tyres were stacked up into piles,
one on top of the other, we would play hide and seek, hiding down
inside the piles. Then when the factory closed down, my brother
and his pals used to play on top of the roof which is very high
and slopes down on to the beach. One night they had been playing
there, when my brother crashed through it, to fall thirty feet
below on to a concrete floor. I don't think I shall ever forget
that night. A girl came to our door with the bad news, and we
rushed over in time to see my brother being carried into the ambulance.
What a mess he was in — he had concussion, two black eyes, broken
wrists and a perforated eardrum — that put paid to his escapades
over at the factory anyway.
There was another favourite place
where we would play for hours, and that was the old brickworks,
now the site of the Prestongrange Mining Museum. We would chase
each other in and out of the kilns, and there