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by Elisabeth Neilson
Summerlee Street was my first address. It was one of the rows of red brick miners' houses in the village of Cuthill. There was From Street and Back Street, the "store", the school, the miners' institute and Mary Beith's post office. Beyond that lay an unknown world to a four year old.
Our house had two big rooms, each with a bed recess. It was considered modern as it had a kitchen and a bathroom and was lit by gas. Other houses still had big zinc baths hanging on hooks or "decks" on the outside wall which were brought down as the miners came home at the end of a shift.
My grandfather had been an engineer with the Summerlee Iron Company in Coatbridge and was sent to Prestongrange Colliery before the pits were nationalised. My grandparents lived in Bankfoot Cottage dating from the 16th Century and where Bonnie Prince Charlie was supposed to have stayed prior to the battle of Prestonpans, When my father lived here as a boy, the sea came right in to the wall opposite the cottage. You can still see the remains of this cottage if you look at the gable end of what is now Prestonpans Bowling Club as the crow stepped gables are still visible.
Almost diagonally opposite this cottage was Cuthill School. I had often looked at the red sandstone building as I sat on the lawn of the miners' institute where my parents played tennis on the red ash court there. This was the school my father had gone to and I would be attending soon. Miss Donaldson would teach me just as she had taught my lather twenty five years before.
By the time 1 went to school I already knew some basic arithmetic through helping my grandmother to put 3d bits into piles of four to make a shilling. "Yin, twa, three, fower" she would say, followed by the warning never to speak like that at school or you would get your "palmies".
The "Kittle" School consisted of a central assembly hall with a highly polished parquet floor. Four classrooms led directly into this hall. The headmaster's classroom was tiered in steps like a theatre, with long wooden desks. This was where you would sit the dreaded "qualy" the qualifying
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