A tale from Down Under …
Throughout 2022, we ran a ‘Year of Stories’ initiative that collected and published a whole range of stories on Cupar. We know those stories reached folk far and wide as our audience shared them with friends, family and colleagues at home and abroad. We are delighted to have received a submission from Down Under … memories from Colin Mountford who lived in Cupar in the late 1940s. Today, Colin is 86 years old and lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. This is Colin’s story …
“My father rented the Tailabout farmhouse from 1947 to 1949. I was 11 years old at the time and while living there, I learned to plough the fields using two Clydesdale horses from the farm stables.”
Colin adds: “The farmhouse had a belt driven horizontal gas engine for power, hand started by pulling on the belt. I learned how to drive a horse and cart – mainly to collect coal fallen from steam trains traveling the Aberdeen to London service which passed close by the farm.” He recalls that it was during the “very cold winter in 1947” and that coal was “the only form of heating we had“.
Colin “got to know the local farm hands quite well” and he enjoyed their company. He recalls ice skating in Cupar’s flooded park in the winter “which was fun!“.
As for schooling: “I went to school in St Andrews via a local bus service I caught by walking up to the main road near the Sugar beat factory. During this walk I passed what looked like a WW2 observation building on the roadway side of the river Eden.”
He was also “a train spotter” explaining: “All night long they raced by the farm, the noise, the smell, I can still hear them! The Aberdonian, the Flying Scotsman … and the bonus, all the spilt coal that used to fall of the tenders.”
They were certainly different times. Colin says: “I learned how to set rabbit snares with my dad on the railway embankments which was loads of fun, and helped our family budget.” He also “learned a bit about fixing farm machinery later which helped me get an apprenticeship when we left Cupar to return to Edinburgh.”
Colin became a marine engineer in the British Merchant Navy and worked for P&O on the London to Sydney service. He says: “We carried many hundreds of what were called the “Ten Pound Poms” to Australia” adding: “And then the best part … returning to London with a boatload of Australian ladies traveling to London for work experience!”
Since publishing this article, Colin has shared the photos above (L-R): “The steam train photo was not taken in Cupar but sent as representative of the type of rollingstock to be seen in Cupar, approx. 1947. A typical main line locomotive used on main line passenger services then. (And all over the rest of the country) It was a Pacific Class 4-6-2 Type A1 locomotive, restored for excursions on main line and privately owned rail tracks all over the country. It would have been purchased from B.R. in the early to mid-sixties, for restoration at the end of the steam era, and prior to the introduction of Diesel rollingstock. This photograph was taken in Edinburgh at the start of an excursion in the 1990’s. The British public have been having an affair with the steam age since it ended in the Sixties, it is a labor of love, and it will never end.” In 1995, Colin made a trip back to Cupar: “During this visit I did call into Tailabout, and the rest of Cupar as part of a trip down memory lane. I recall the picture of the farmhouse would have been taken then.” The final photo is from the same trip when he returned to Madras College.”
Colin adds: “I do recall that in 1947 Tailabout Farm was out of town with no other buildings nearby, other than the sugar beet factory. Pictures of Cupar today show infrastructure all around the farm, almost like it’s a part of suburbia. I suppose because I’m now 87 I prefer things how they used to be! I can’t imagine snaring rabbits on the railway embankment today! Keep up the good work. History is an endlessly interesting story.” Finally, he told us: “I have never forgotten Cupar.”
Thank you Colin for taking the time to write to us with your wonderful memories of your time in Cupar.
Far flung …
We know the content we publish and share reaches all four corners of the world – and it is wonderful that Colin has been able to connect with us via our Blog. We have many thousands of readers spread across every time zone – all thanks to our audience sharing with family, friends and colleagues.
The map below shows there are another 262 joining Colin in Australia!
We wonder whether any of our readers – at home or abroad – remembers Colin or his family … or has similar childhood memories of growing up in and around the town?
We’d love to hear from you. Just click on the image below to complete and submit your story.
Thanks for reading!