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SCHOOLDAYS - William (Bing) Davie

I was born in Summerlee Street in 1920 and so far I've managed to struggle through three crippling miners' strikes and a world war. Summerlee in the early days seemed to be a community of its own. The scheme comprised of five blocks of houses with 32 in each row. There were no toilets. baths or even running water in these houses except for the one block we called Bath Street. The rest of them had an outside well between two stairs and also a wash house and midden with dry toilets. The houses contained a single room and kitchen with two built-in beds in the living room. There was a big fireplace with its black surround which was regularly polished with Zebo black lead and one could nearly see your face in it. It also had an oven at the side but as there were no baths at the pits the grate and oven were normally used for drying the moleskin trousers and wet pit clothes. Lighting in the kitchen comprised of a single gas light in the centre of the big mantelpiece.
Schooldays for the First part from five to nine years old was spent at the Cuthill School which had four classes taught by Misses Smith. Menzies. Donaldson and SandiIands. then you advanced to the Public School. These days were remembered as amongst the best. We would burn' home from school and rush out to play football. After tea you would be back out playing kick-the-can. levo or hunch-cuddy-hunch at the lamppost.
School holidays were great, no such things as Butlin's. Benidorm or such places. We used to be down the shore and in the water bathing either at the "Dookin' Hole", the Craig or at the harbour. especially when the foreign boats came in for coal. bricks and pipes.
Most weeks during the holidays there was always something special on such as the Lads' meeting trip when we went to Longniddry on Mathieson's lorries. If you missed them you had to run down the coast road and would be there when they arrived after their circular tour via Tranent and Macmerry. Instead of the Civic Week we had the Miners' Gala day. It was always great, everyone dressed with their new gym shoes and your tinny was strapped over your shoulder. You would gather at the school under the charge of your own teacher and march to the park accompanied by the colliery brass band and St Joseph's Pipe Band. Once there you got a store pie and bag of buns and had an afternoon of sports. Another pleasant day was the Regatta. Mr Belfield who owned the pottery was the Commodore and his big yacht was berthed just off shore at the Black Bull and a large programme of aquatic sports and yacht racing was held.

Jean Whitelaw provided this chart of the route taken by the yachts, along with a copy of a Regatta programme shown on the following page

Then there was the Infirmary Pageant with its many floats and fancy dressed people. One in particular I always remember was a man who had had a serious operation, but came every year dressed as a little boy and pulled his wee boat bought from Woolworths along the gutter and always seemed to have his money can well filled. About the week before the school broke up for the holidays we would get a sheet of twelve vouchers for Fun City at Portobello. donated by Mr Codona who ran the "Scratcher Picture House" and this allowed you a free ride on each of the attractions such as the dodgems, chairopIanes or helter-skelter. So we would make a day of it with our ride in the tramcar. a cheese sandwich or "jeelie" piece and bottle of sugarellie water, but these were usually devoured before we got off the trams!
Life went on in its own community role and there was always some of the older women you could call on in the time of an emergency even if it was a birth, death or a bairn with the measles or any fevers and their doors were always open for you.
We had our mission Hall which was used at times for the Sisterhood. Home League. Boys Brigade or rehearsal for the Christmas Kinderspiel and in 1925 the Miners' Institute was opened. After being the main part of the soup kitchen during the strike it was the regular place for functions such as dances, weddings and became known as Hell's Kitchen but had one of the best dance floors in the area.
Most shopping was done by the women in the wee store or from Hay's grocery, when you received black and white stamps which were exchanged for goods by completing one or two books. The store, however, gave you a dividend twice a year depending on your purchases throughout the year and "Dividay" was a real red letter day. Women would be queuing up early before the office opened and you were always sure mother would come home with something nice for you that day.
Other messages were usually bought from one of the many different vans which came through the row each week such as Andrew Burns, the store baker, Aggie Bagnal and old Joe with their fruit van. the fish man with his usual shout "Kippers - penny a pair" and then at the weekends the butcher used to come selling his tanner fries. Other means of purchasing goods was normally from the "ticky man" or most women subscribed to a "menage" either from Parkers in Edinburgh or the Beehive stores. Then there was the bottom end of the scale, old Biddy the pack wife would come on a Saturday morning by tram from town to sell her second-hand clothes to the many women queuing for her.
The men of the place after work in the pits used to be seen up the green playing rummy or brag or at the corners of the top block of houses studying the noon Record or picking out Scotia's three, to beat the four bookies who stood there lifting the lines, with each man using his own nom-dc-plume with his bet. On a Saturday night it was along to the Goth or Black Bull for their usual beer. No clubs or Sunday opening in these days unless they became bona-fide travellers and went three miles. In fact. the pubs closed on Saturday after 9pm and it was then that the sing-songs were held at the lampposts with the old men giving their odd coppers to the kids. For the football supporters we had our own Bing Boys and also the Rovers, Thorntree United or the Wemyss to cheer on each week.
Women, as usual, had the hard end of the stick, looking after the bairns, taking their turn in the wash house, maybe after having been down the beach for shingle for the fire. Quite a lot of them used to work in the fields at the berries or tatties, where they would make sure they brought enough home. often to see the household through the winter.
Other memories of my own which I recall were when my finger was nearly cut off by the swing gate at the house where we used to take the hard bread for the hens. I had my head split and four stitches put in after falling down the outside stair. I then had a rusty wire up through the sole of my shoe and, at the same time, I burnt my other foot with boiling water when washing my feet in the basin Another time I was nearly drowned. I had been up at the harbour with a piece for my father who was helping to load one of the ships in for coal. I think it was called the "Wave Queen" from Aberdeen and I was pushed over into the harbour from the top of the piles. My foot stuck in the mud and it took someone to climb down and save me. Despite these accidents and some hard times. I was otherwise lucky. I never had any childhood illnesses and finished up with ten years perfect attendance at school.
So time rolled on and later our houses had baths and sinks added and we were moved to the middle block while they were altered. My family moved to the top of the Pans and that started another new and different part of my life.

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