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THE STORY OF MY LIFE AND TRAVELS DAVID McNALLY

(Mr McNally kindly gave me the following pages which he wrote in August 2003 at the tender age of 91 years.)

By  DAVID MCNALLY of KILDONNAN CROFT, STONEYKIRK.

D.McNally aged 6     Born on the 3rd October 1912 on a small croft - just  8 acres - and 8 miles down the coast from Portpatrick looking straight across the Irish Sea to Belfast. My birth, I am sorry to say, was not one of the usual affairs of another son coming into the world, as my father and mother never married and I was brought up with my Grandfather and Grandmother, who already had 14 of their own. But I am glad to say, well treated was the bairn and I was brought up as a younger brother and still am to this day, and the only one still living.

I was schooled at a small country school by the name of the Meoul. There were about 60 pupils and the children were all from farms - the children of farm workers. You could only go so far with your education there, then you went to Stranraer but to get to Stranraer you had 6 miles to walk to catch a train, then 4 miles in the train, so I may say it was only the farmers' sons and daughters who could afford to pay. School photograph Click for bigger view

I am afraid I wasn't very bright at the school -I just did my lessons when I had nothing else to do. The only time I pleased the master was when he sent me out to do his garden. I was clever with a spade and shovel so did not leave the school with any highers.

I lost my Gran - she died when I was 10 years of age. There was one thing I found out at that time. When you lose your Mother, her place can never be filled and I believe, to this day, home is never the same. I had the meals to cook for Grandpa and I will say he never complained about my cooking as long as I had it on the table at the right time. As well as cooking, I had to put myself out to school, then work to do with the old pony when I came home at night. Then one day, just after I left school, one of the family, Robina, walked into the house with her case and said, "well son, I am home to keep house for Father and you". I could not believe it! I was baking pancakes at the time -1 had just put flour and milk into a bowl to make a soda scone, but I never could master the scones and I was never as pleased to see anybody to come in the door and just went out the house and got the pony and cart, and started to put in some turnips. No more housework for me! 

However, things did not work out as well as I thought. I was having to look for work and wanted to go and do farm work. The old man wanted me to go into the Colfin creamery and told me "that's where you are going". We had an almighty row and I walked out of the house and 5 miles to my Aunt Maggies. I stayed overnight - back up to the croft the next day and got my clothes and I never was back home for 5 years. However, I am not too proud of what I did, for after all, he was a hard working man and learnt me a lot about farm work. That was the start of my wandering years.

Now when I arrived at Maggie Henry's it was a Wednesday night and next day was the We Free Press day - that was the local paper. Lo and behold there was a job in it and Mr. James Milroy of West Ringiny was looking for a byre boy to look after his dairy of 32 cows. I got a loan of Maggie's bike and went up that night and got the job - 10 a 6month plus food and bed. Now Mr. Milroy had a milking machine - it was a Wallace.  I had never seen a milking machine, far less worked one but 2 or 3 days and I had got the hang of it. However, not a bad boss to work for but he was very fond of his whiskey. 

On a Friday it was Stranraer market day and he used to bring a full bottle home and hide it in the steading. I saw where he hid it and told the ploughman where it was, so he had 2 or 3 slugs out of it Wee Bob McDowall: lost his 2 legs above the knee. Well I stayed with Mr. Milroy till the end of 6 months and then went down to my Uncle Willie Henry's to help him to do the dairy of 60 cows at Low Three Mark outside Stoneykirk. Not a lot to tell about this farm except to say that was one of the heaviest falls of snow I can ever remember - the drifts were 12 feet high and I had to cart the milk 3 miles to Sandhead Creamery with the horse and cart. Maybe the only other exciting day was when Mr. Bell, the boss, was cleaning chaff out of the corn in the barn loft. It was driven by a water wheel so when I went up to bring the cows in, I gave it another 6 turns and the little pair of fanners was jumping about the floor till the belt came off. Mr. Bell came into the byre - he was mad. He asked me "did I see any boys over at the dam" and I said "yes Mr Bell, there were 3 lumps of boys, but I never saw them interfering with water." I would have got me books if he had found out it was me.

So, once again I moved on back down to one of the oldest members of the family - Peter McNally - who was dairyman to Mr. Hugh Ferguson of Brigtone at Crossmichael. Hugh and I went at the same time to help him. We went to work in the dairy and learned cheese making. I enjoyed the cheese making. Now, they had a big girl as house servant. I don't know what went wrong, but her and I fought the bit out, but Hugh and her started courting. And by mistake I locked them out one night and there was a real barny next morning, so Peter's wife took her side and I told them what to do with their job. Packed my case and down the road. This was the only time I ever left any place in the middle of 6 months. Hugh, my brother, followed in the afternoon and I swore that this would be the last time I would ever work for a friend.

I moved on to another farm called Auchenhay near Borgue. Mr. John Parker was the farmer's name. My Uncle, Davie Kellett, was ploughman so he told me that he could try and get me a job with Mr. Parker as a drover. I had to drive cattle from Auchenhay every weekend, to Castle Douglas market, through Twynholm, to the Brig o Dee, then go back on the Monday morning to take them into the market for 9 o'clock. I got 2 shillings for my dinner but they did not know that I knew the woman serving the dinners, and I got my dinner free! I stayed there till the end of 6 months and had a great old dog who knew every roadend from Auchenhay to Castle Douglas. I never had to speak to him - he was as wise as a man. Sold him for 1 when I left - that was a lot of money in these days.

Now I then made my way back to Wigtownshire to Mr. Alee Spence of Mid Ringiny as byreman, to look after 35 cows. They were a lovely family to work for - a home from home. Mrs. Spence had 2 sisters and none of them ever married. This is a little private piece I am putting in here - that's when I started courting with a wee lassie called Jean Beckett. A lovely girl but we all left Ringiny at the end of 6 months and I made my way back to Castle Douglas to Robert Watson, Halfem, near Clarebrand, again as bulluckman driving the cattle down to Castle Douglas - another lovely family to work for. I should never had left it. I met Mr. Watson after I came to Doonbank, and he told me then that if I had stayed he would have left the farm to me - he was married but they had no family.

During the time I worked at Halfem I got friendly with a family by the name of Goldie. He was dairyman at Wheatrig Farm on the outskirts of Castle Douglas. To tell you the truth, I got very fond of their eldest daughter Mary, but her father had waged to go down to England as dairyman to a farmer by the name of Alee Wishart. He had farms in Aberdeenshire and also the Crown Dairies in the town. But he had bought this farm down in England by the name of Manor Farm, Great Rollright, near Chipping Norton. Sam Goldie was short of one person for milking 60 cows on this farm so I asked Mary's Dad if he could take me, but I did not have it all my own way, as there was another young fellow by the name of Willie Shields, who had his eye on my wee Mary. However, wee Davy got the job, but at the end of the year I did not win my Mary. I enjoyed my stay with the Goldie family and still keep in touch with only one of that family, who is still alive.



Now, I want to say that this time of my life I got fed up with dairying and wanted away from cows. I wanted a pair of horse to plough, harrow and sow. You see, before I left the croft, my Grandfather had taught me to plough, and even tho I was only 13 years of age and not very big, I was able to make a fair job. Also, when we were feeding the hens with corn, he placed a sowing sheet on my back and I practised how to sow. And I said to Sam one day, I was leaving and wanted to work with horses. I am not afraid to admit there were tears in my eyes leaving the Goldie family. There were tears in their eyes as well. Also 6 months after I had left, Mrs. Goldie wrote to say my wee tackity boots were cleaned and waiting for me to go back, but I never went back.

My next stop I landed once more at Aunt Maggie Henry's to a farm called East Kinleith, Currie, owned by a family named Logan and Forrest, the same Logan and Forrest of Mearsington Hall in the Borders. I waited a short time before I got a job, just doing casual work shawing turnips and manure spreading. Then I went back to a small dairy of 25 cows. I was never very happy with it. I had to be up at 4 o'clock in the morning because they wanted the milk delivered to customers at 7 o'clock. On this farm the workers got meatroll morning, noon and night. Don't get me wrong - it was good - but 3
times a day... ! So I stuck it for about 3 weeks. At last I shoved my plate over to the boss, Mr. Robertson and asked if he knew, 3 times a day, 7 days a week, we were being fed meatloaf? So he lifted my plate and went to the dining room and brought me through egg and 2 slices of ham, and the mrs. and him had a barny and he told her that he did not want his workers to be complaining about food - they were to get a change every other day. Good for McNally , the other men said, and I was only 17 at the time!
Then my luck changed. There was a new second ploughman engaged to come to East Kinleith on 28th November. This couple had to travel 10 miles by horse and cart on one of the coldest days you could imagine snow and sleet. The mother and 2 daughters were alright - they were brought over in a car, but Mr. Kennedy had sat in the back of the cart absolutely frozen and came down with flu. On the fourth day he died. God Bless him -1 was offered his job as second ploughman. I was over the moon, as this was what I had been looking for (not the poor man dying, but his job! ) The first man was a first-class ploughman, so I can safely say it was from him that I learned all the tricks of the trade. Yes I have a lot to thank Reg Baillie for: how to plough a straight furrow and a straight drill, build stacks of oats and most of all, how to look after a pair of horses.

Little did I think then, that at a later date I would take over his job in Ayrshire, when he got the sack. More about that later! Now I worked for 1 year at East Kinleith. When the grieve decided he wanted a move, and went to a farm, Gortonlee, Lasswade, just outside Rosewell I joined him as second horseman, on a place with 4 pairs of horses. I was only 18 years of age. I knew I would need all my learning to fill that job for Mr. Hardgreaves was a real good farmer. We grew about 20 acres of potatoes for Dobbies, the seeds merchant, and the rest of the ground was all cropped, no grass fields, only wheat, barley and oats. We were about 8 employees - happy days to look back on, never had a cross word - till waging on time, when we all asked for a 3 shilling rise in our pay. That was after a year's work, but "no", the farmer would not agree, so the first man and his son got a job at another farm and the grieve and Mr. Hardgreave offered me the first pair of horses.  I said, "will you give me the 3 shillings of a rise"? Mr. Hardgreave said "a boy of 19 years of age, wanting 3 shillings a week of a rise!" At the end of the day, although they were pleased with my work, they would only agree to think about it, so I told them not to bother thinking about it, as I had a job lined up in Ayrshire, and that's where I landed, back to second pair with my old friend Reg Baillie, to Big Auldmuir, Dairy - a farm owned by Mr. Robert Dickson,

Now, as I said, there is a sad little story about this. After working with Reg for about 11 months, he had a bad accident and so Reg was off work for about 10 weeks, and I had the horse to work at that time. Mr. Dickson decided he could not wait any longer and would have to get another man, so that was a sad way of parting with Reg Baillie - a great friend. I have never heard of him since - he will be long gone now, as he would be over 100 years of age.

I was 20 years of age when I arrived at Big Auldmuir. Mr and Mrs Dickson had a family of 2 girls and 1 son and my job as first ploughman lasted for 11 years. Unfortunately, Mr. Dickson went off his legs - his father and his uncle before him had the same problem. I don't want to say what the trouble was, but it was very sad, as they all had the same trouble. Robert's son also died in his 30s, so it was left for me to carry on. I got married to my first wife, Margaret Cook, in 1938, just before the war started. I was exempt from service as I was the only one able to work the farm, with the help of land girls and the 2 farmer's daughters. My own wife did not keep good health, and we started out married life living with Grandpa Dickson at Little Auldmuir, until he died. I have a lot of memories over the 11 years spent there - some good, some not so good. I left Big Auldmuir in 1945 and our daughter, Margaret Anne, was born that year. I started as Manager for a Mr. and Mrs. Hogarth at Megswell, Kilwinning. A lovely couple to work for. Unfortunately it only lasted 2 years as Mr. Hogarth died suddenly.

I continued working for a Miss dark, of the Thread Mills in Paisley. I'll say no more on that line, except to say I had some of the finest neighbours any man could have wished for: Hugh Logan, Matthew Steel, Hamilton Aird - that's just a few who were always there when I needed help. So after I told Miss dark what to do with her job, within a month I had found a job with a man I hold in high esteem, one of the best farmers in Ayrshire without a doubt - Mr. and Mrs. David Smith of Kilmaurs Mains. Happy to say, never in that time did Mr. Smith and Davie McNally have a cross word! The only time
Davie Smith gave me an order, when I was making my fearance, would I make them forty five yards, instead of forty. I just said, very quietly, give me your reason for that boss. He just said when you had a split rig, you are not making your hints and your breaks in the same place. Now, you ploughman, think that one out! In the same breath he said, if you are having any difficulties in setting your plough, don't ask me -I know nothing about ploughs!

Now it is John Smith - Davie's son and family - who are farming Kilmaurs Mains, but they are not as tidy as their grandfather. After two and a half years, I got the offer to take the farm manager's job with Brigadier Gow, of Hallhill, Howwood. When I made the bargain to go to the Gows, there was no steading, just a cottage, so I was in charge of how the byres, hay shed and milk dairy was to be built. Well, I had quite a job for a time learning him and his wife how a farm should be run to make it pay its way. They were always asking the neighbouring farmers if I was doing my job right, till I put my foot down pretty hard and told them I was managing the farm MY way, not the way the neighbours wanted, or they could keep the job. I was 8 years at Hallhill, till my wife's health broke down and I was told by the doctor to get her away from work altogether. I left Hallhill and found a small house in Largs to let. I had no job, and had to go along to the buroo office on the Monday morning. The young girl told me there was no chance a for while. She wanted to know what kind of work. I told her I had been in agricultural work and, of course there was nothing. I answered her back by saying "look here, lassie I could walk out of this door and have a job in any of the farms round here, but I want to have a try at the other side of life. What about Hunterston?" She replied there were no jobs going there and I would have to go to Ardrossan where they employ workers for there. I got a green card and went on the Monday afternoon. They did offer me a job, but only if I took a pick and shovel and I would have to work my way up to get something better. Now, I am not going to waste time writing about my 9 months at Hunterston. I hated it from the first day until I left. I never worked with so many lazy men in my life - all from Greenock or Gourock - they could live where we could die - so nine months and I was off. Landed home one day, and my wife told me there was a Mr.McKellar at the door looking for you - there is a job going at Kelbum Golf Course tractor cutting the fairways. I started right away and enjoyed it immensely but the pay was very low and Largs was a dear place to live. But I got some gardens to do at night and that helped. Once again, doctors orders meant that, because we lived in a flat 3 floors up, we would have to get a house on the flat.



So, I got the Scottish Farmer and there was a job for a man to look after the trial plots at McGill and Smiths, at Doonbank, and also the flock of Suffolk Sheep. Two days later, Mr. Jim Watson came along to see me. Everything went well until he asked me if I had ever dressed Suffolk Sheep for shows and sales. I told him the truth, that I had never even seen a Suffolk Sheep between the eyes! " Oh," he said " we would like a man who knew something about Suffolks". I said that if he gave me 2 years amongst the Suffolks, I would have them in with me red tickets, and if I failed, he could sack me. In 2 years, I
got the red tickets - not only that, but in 4 years time, I was teaching some young farmers how to dress sheep. Just before I go away from the Suffolks, I must say I never thought I would be so keen on breeding any kind of sheep, but once you got out amongst the north country men, you have no idea the tricks that were in the trade. It is unbelievable the friends you find. I made friends from the Solway Firm to the North Sea: the Mairs of Muiresk, Douglas of Caimess, Wilson of Bamyards, Allan of Querallen Law, Logan of Burton, his daughter Helen Harper Croft, Walter Armstrong of Friarland, Claude Birrell of Castle Douglas, Bill Herron, Stoneykirk, Wallace of Greyhill, Becks of Drummore, also folk from England, Ireland and Wales. There were the kind of people you could admire - what they knew about Suffolk Sheep was nobody's business. That, my friends, was where I learned to build gigots, and level backs with pair of shears. Then of course, the day came to judge the Suffolks at shows all over Scotland. I was a proud wee man. Going back to Davie Smith, he gave me one bit of advice - never look at the end of the halter, just look at what ever kind of animal you are judging - remember you can't please everybody, and most of the time I followed his advice.

I must tell about one young farmer when I was judging Suffolks at Dumfries Show. I am not going to name the young man he wasn't pleased where I placed his tup lamb. I had given him 4th prize ticket, so when the judging was over he asked me what I found wrong with his tup lamb - he said he had 3 first prizes with him already this year. I said " Oh, nothing much wrong with your sheep, son, but if you were my neighbour, I would not like him to jump the dyke and tup any of my ewes," so he went off with his tail between his legs, but we are still good friends. I must mention my very close friend Walter McCubbin. I taught him to clip and he has turned out to be one of the best clippers in Ayrshire.

I also took a great interest in the growing and sowing of the trial plots and worked for 22 years at Doon bank. I enjoyed every day of it.

Sorry to say that I had my sad days as well I lost my first wife after about a year when my daughter was only 15, but we worked quietly away together between the two of us, for 6 years, then Margaret got married to Billy Watson. We just kept on staying together for another 5 years, then Billy and Margaret bought a house in Ayr. 2 years after that, Davie decided that he was a bit cold at nights and he needed somebody to keep his back warm, so Margaret's bridesmaid's mother, Mary, who had lost her husband suddenly, obliged and we had 25 happy years together until she died in 1999. When I retired from Doonbank, we were very lucky to get one of the Bums Memorial Cottages in Mauchline and I have lived here for 21 years.

Before I married the second time, I had no grandchildren, but when Mary and I got married, I acquired 2 step-daughters, both married with 2 children each, and now I also have 6 great-grandchildren, as well as my own daughter and son-in-law. So although I am on my own again, I am blessed with a large family who are very caring and keep their eye on me!

Last October we had a lovely party to celebrate my 90th birthday - what a great night with all the family there for me!  I don't want anyone reading this to think that I always felt my way was the best way . As I said at the beginning of this, my Grandfather taught me a lot about farm work, and at the time, I thought nobody could better him at building stacks and therefore I, in turn, could also hold my own with anybody. I got my eyes opened when I landed at the farm at Gortonlee, Lasswade. It came to harvest time and I was building my cart the way I was taught, and the man forking to me, asked me "where do you belong to, lad? I know you don't belong to this district". I replied "how do you know that?". He said, "by the way you are building that cart!" I asked him what was wrong with the cart, and he replied that it was not the right way to build these kinds of carts. He said "that's a Jenny Lin cart!" I knew he was a friend of the boss so I said we would change over jobs and he could build the next cart. Well, folks, I got my eyes opened! He said " the way you build is called the paisley bend - that means your front should be half-moon shaped, and the back the same, and straight down both sides, and double sheaf on each corner and eight rows high, so that you don't need tow ropes to drive the cart into the stock yard".
Now, as I said, he was a friend of the boss and was also a policeman. How the hell did a policeman learn to do a job like that?!

It seems that some of my friends, who have gone over my life story, wonder why I never stated the ups and downs of my life. They knew me as having been a "devil may care" type and always looking for someone to take a rise out of, or get into mischief, or have some near scrapes. Yes, of course I got into different kinds of trouble and had some very lucky escapes and a few bad accidents that could have been fatal. Now, I am not going to make up any fake stories, as they really did happen.

First of all, I told you about my first wee sweetheart at Mr. Spence, Mid Ringinie. Well, there was an old man - a William Ross - who did odd work about the farm, and was so mad at me being so friendly with Jean. He was about 60 years of age, and used to bring her sweets galore and boxes of chocolates, and she would give some of those to wee McNally. One night she gave me a box with about half a dozen sweets left in it. On going up to the farm, I met this William Ross and held out the box saying "do you want a chocolate?" He was stone mad! I thought he was going to kill me! He did not speak to Jean for about 2 months - all over a sweetie!

Now, from there on to Mr. Watson's, Halfeam. No-one would think that working on a farm you could have any accidents, but I can assure you, you can get hurt on a farm as well as anywhere. We were busy dipping sheep and the last sheep was a big white faced Leicester who was galloping past me when I tried to catch him. I was only 14 at the time, and he pulled a muscle on my right side. The doctor told me to go home and put a mustard poltice on it. How could I, at 14, ask the boss's mother to put a poltice round my belly? But she said "get up these stairs, and I'll be up in 5 minutes" It was no laughing matter and I was in bed for 4 days!

Another time, 4 of us could have been killed at Mr. Dicksons, Big Auldmuir. We were carting corn to the stock yard and only the son or myself could drive the tractor. So, I said to another of the young men - Sandy -" you will have to drive the tractor" . I stood behind him on the drawbar and told him, "just travel in second gear until you get used to it" But what happened was, when he changed from first to second, he actually put it into top gear and he lost control. I was shouting to brake but could do nothing to help him. There was a small bridge with a drop of about 12 feet down into the water. I pulled the side brake as hard as I could, but the tractor turned round on the road and struck the bridge with the front of the tractor. The only thing that stopped the tractor and the four of us from going over the bridge, was the big wheel on the right side of the tractor. All the studs were broken causing the tractor to fall on its side. We could all have been killed! Another instance was with Mr. Smith of Kilmaurs Mains, who was attacked by an Ayrshire bull. The bull ripped open his tummy but luckily, threw him outside the pen. He managed to crawl out of the bull's way and the byreman and myself had to go in with 2 pitchforks to tie him up.

Finally I want to tell you about my first bike! Now this is a wee story with a happy ending that gives me a lot of pleasure to tell. As I said in the beginning of my life, my Grandfather and I fell out and I never was home for 5 years. At the end of 5 years, I was working up at East Kinleith, Currie, and I got a letter from one of my aunts in Stranraer to say that if I wanted to see my Grandfather alive, I should come down as soon as possible. I said to my boss "what do I do about this?" He told me to get into the house, pack my wee case and make my way home, because if I didn't, I would regret it for the rest of my life. I landed down to Stranraer late on Saturday afternoon. The only way I could get to the croft was to hire a bike and I knew a Davy Sloss, a cycle agent. I went along to his shop and asked if he could hire me a bike for 2 days. He told me it would cost me 1. I gave him the money. Then I said "you don't know me, Mr. Sloss". He said "no, should I?" I replied, "yes! I bought the first bike you sold from this shop, when you opened about 8 years ago". "Never", he said! But, he had a book where he had kept the names of all the folk who had bought bikes and there, on October 28th 1928 was the name of David McNally and a Royal Enfield Bike. He was able to tell me that I put 1 down and promised a shilling each week until I had paid it up. At that time I had had to give a friend's name to see I kept up the payments. I put down Mrs. W. Henry, Mill Mains Cottage, Stoneykirk, who was my aunt. Mr. Sloss then said "take back the 1, you can have the bike for a month if you want it" He shook my hand very warmly and told me this.

" Now Davy, there is a story behind this, that I wonder if your Aunt ever told you. On the Monday 30th October, after you had bought the bike, your Aunt came in and paid for your bike in full. You continued to give her the shilling a week, but all the time the bike had been paid for and she never let on.".

I went out to my Grandfather's on the Saturday night, knocked on the door, and was met by his housekeeper. "What can I do for you?" she asked. I said that I was one of the family and she replied "I've never seen you before, but anyway come in". My Grandfather looked at me and said "Oh my God. The bairn has come home, I'll get better now". We both had tears running down our cheeks!! He went on to live another 7 years after that and neither of us had a cross word again.

Now, this is really the end of my life story, and I can tell you truthfully there is a tear in
MY eye right now. You always keep the best story for the end !!!!

THE END

August 2003

Local people