West Linton, Biggar
27 May 2012
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Will add to this page over the next few days.... we are at West Linton until the 28th
Thursday 16th May
Bags are packed, a couple of small bags can be left behind, we will probably be back here again! Torty drops us off to the bus stop to catch the 10.20 into Edinburgh. On the way to the stop Tony sees what looks like a roll of gift wrap in the grass on the side of the road, but it will be well soaked now with all this rain that we have had! We get to Edinburgh around 11am, and have twenty minutes before the bus to West Linton. Tony heads off to Poundland, in the mall next to the bus station, to get another roll of gift wrap. They also have cardboard posting boxes there, similar sized boxes are over £3 at the Post office!
Back at the bus depot Tony realises he didn’t go to the ATM, and is just telling Cynthea he will be right back, when the bus to Biggar arrives (not many people on board). We have about ten minutes, but decide not risk it in case there is a delay and the driver won’t wait. We just hope we have enough for the bus fare, the prices for tickets seem a lot dearer than the other company. From Oxenfoord to Edinburgh it costs us £2.05 each, but the notice on the timetable says that Edinburgh to Biggar is £4.60, and the trip is about the same distance. We have a quick count up of cash, and should be fine.
The bus driver is off on a break, the time comes for the bus to leave and there is no sign of him. We are looking at the bus wondering if we will have room for our bags, as there seem to be a lot of people waiting for it. The driver eventually wanders back, and Tony heads over to ask where to leave the bags. He tells Tony that there will be plenty of room, this is the quietest part of the day and we are likely to be the only ones on. Another bus pulls into the stance next to ours, and everyone else waiting gets on that one.
We ask for two single fares, and the driver asks if we are coming back to Edinburgh. We tell him yes, but it will be a few days before we do. He says a single fare is £3, and a return is £4.10, valid for 28 days, so we go with that. We are the only ones on, as predicted, and Tony is chatting to the driver. He asks what we are doing over here, and Tony tells him, and adds that we had been doing family tree research, and the old family farm was just out of Biggar.
The driver asks where, and Tony tells him it was at Symington. The driver asks where, and Tony says it used to be called Annieston Farm, but believes it to be subdivided now. You could have knocked Tony over with a feather when the driver tells him that he lives in one of the cottages on the old family farm!
Fergie has lived there for about 9 years, the farm had been subdivided off. The old cottages where Tony’s great grandfather (David Craig) was born were been demolished about 2000, and new homes built on Annieston Place (away from the main group of farm houses). The main farmhouse, granary, and farm cottages have also been split from the farm itself.
Fergie tells us that if we want to visit the old place, we just need to be waiting at the bus stop in West Linton at 12.30, he goes home for lunch and will take us there. We guess we will have to buy a bus ticket so he can get us to Biggar! The people that own the farmhouse don't farm the land, someone else owns that.
Mike, our HelpX host, is waiting at the bus stop for us, fortunately it has stopped raining for now, and we walk the short distance to the house. We had expected this placement to be a homestay business, however that is not the case. It seems that this category with HelpX is helping around the home. We had been asked to assist with gardening, and a few odd jobs around the home, we are here until the 28th.
We were a bit confused when we looked at the host profile when we were approached to stay here. The host was listed as Connor Rose, but the references left by helpers referred to Christina, Mike and Iona Tinlin, and Christina’s mum, Mary. When Tony spoke to Mary on the phone that day, she referred to Connor as “he”, so things got even more confusing. When we arrived it was explained that Christina was transgender, and she was undergoing a gender change. Part of that was to change her name, and to be referred to as a male. As Mike did not particularly wish to retain his stepfather's surname, he took the opportunity to make a change, and the family took on his mother’s maiden surname, Rose. Iona is Connor and Mike’s 3½ year old daughter, she is a bit silly with us when we arrive, but should settle when she gets used to us being around.
The house is on a large section, there are two large and two small bedrooms, Connor and Mike in one (with an ensuite), and Iona and her grandmother sharing a double bed in another. We are in a small room by the front door, a single bed and a mattress on the floor take up most of the room. The other room is a computer room and library. There are more bookcases in the dining room, and they are all cookbooks! We would be hard pressed to find a book store with this many cook books! There is a large kitchen, large lounge and a conservatory, so plenty of room in the house for us all.
Connor has recently started a job as a baker, working a late shift. The bakery is a co-operative based on a farm about five miles away. Mike has a number of disabilities (leg ulcer, epilepsy, and others), so they need a lot of help around the property with the garden and general household maintenance. There is a big list “to do”, and we are to work through it as we were able, about three to five hours a day. The family are pretty relaxed about how we work our time out, and there is no pressure or clock watching. We are asked if we would mind helping a little with Iona (taking her to morning play ground and picking her up again).
The section backs on to the river that flows through the town, and across from that is a large reserve area. We are told deer can often be seen from the back yard, and there is also a colony of bats here. There is a “murder” of crows nearby, Tony often wondered why a group of these birds would be called a murder, and he figures that some poor bugger got sick of the constant racket, dawn to dusk, and wanted to murder them! It is near the longest day that makes it a hell of a long day listening to them. The are constantly “phark, phark, pharking”, from around 4am to 10pm.
The first couple of days are pretty miserable as far as weather goes, not too cold, but fairly damp, and enough to stop outside chores. There is plenty to do inside, Tony spends the first couple of days working on their computers and setting a few things up for them, and Cynthea has a job in the kitchen cleaning out the cupboards and giving them a general tidy up. There are one or two electrical jobs, mainly sorting out light bulbs that the others are too short to change!
It is a nice walk to the play group, takes around ten minutes, across the main road, down over the river into the town centre. It is a pretty wee village, the main street is quite narrow and winding. On Saturday night Connor’s boss from the bakery joins us for tea, Deb and her husband Jeff are Aussies. We head down to the bowling club after tea for a quiz night, and come third. It is a great night out.
We get lucky with the weather and after the weekend the sun shines brightly several days in a row, we even crack 20 degrees towards the end of the week! We get busy outside, mowing lawns, trying to do the edges with a dodgy weed eater, planting and generally tidying. The garage is a bit of a shambles, and we are asked to help putting that in order. We are told to just throw away anything that is rubbish, but we say we prefer someone to be there to make that decision (just as well, several things would have been biffed had it been left to us!). There is lots more to keep us busy, including digging out an area for an outdoor oven to be built. There are steps down to the river, but these are overgrown, and we don’t really have the tools to sort it out. Tony makes a start while the weather is good, applying weedkiller will make it easier for the next helpers! There are a lot of sodding bloody stinging nettles, and Tony thinks back to the nettle beer that our friends Sharilyn and Brian made in Ratho.
Tuesday 22nd May. We decide that while the weather is good we will visit the family farm at Symington. Tony picks up the family tree information and is surprised to see that today is his great grandfather’s birthday. David Craig was born on the farm 149 years ago. It feels very surreal, and maks for an even more emotional visit. We meet the bus at 12.30, and Fergie tells us he is not going home for lunch today, but the bugger is winding us up.
We drive out to the site of the farm. Annieston Place was created some years ago, around the farm cottages that were once there. These farm cottages are on the site where David Craig was born in 1863, the homes that are currently there were built around 1999-2000. Annieston Place is some distance from the main house, the granary, and two other farm cottages.
The farm has been subdivided, the majority of which is thought to have taken place around 1999-2000. The two farm cottages near the main farmhouse were redeveloped around 1999-2000. Fergie, the bus driver, purchased his cottage in 2003 for £60,000.
The owner of the rest of the farm (the land itself) is Hugh Jackson, however he was not about, nor did we meet the owner of the granary building.
The old homestead is owned by the Thomsons, but only their son was home, so we didn’t get too much information about the history of the homestead, and didn’t ask to view inside.
Rudy tells us that when his parents were relaying the flagstones (cannot remember if it was hallway or kitchen) that they were told that the remains of children lay there. Tony talked to his father on the phone, he recalled visitors to the farm around 2006-2007 who had researched the ancestry, and is going to see if he can find any information that they left him. Just inside the conservatory, the date, 1786, followed by the letters CD, are carved into a stone above the front entrance (unsure of the significance of the date or the initials, however Tony’s great, great grandfather was in either 1795 or 1796). We took photos of the farmland, homestead, granary and cottages. It was a short visit, but so great to be able to visit.
Fergie drove us back to Biggar, and we visited the flower shop, where we believed the bakery to have been (the Craigs lived in the houses above this shop, and the one next door). The shop owner “wasn’t local”, she had only lived here 25 years! However she put us in touch with a historian who told us that the bakery was actually built in the square (James Square) behind the High Street. No one is actually sure which building the bakery used to be in. We head through to James Square, and then on to the Moat Park museum, where we have been there are records we can view. The woman on the desk does not know of any records, she is just a volunteer, she explains. She goes to find someone else, but does not know what doorway to use, and suggests we go around the back of the building to look for Suzanne. She is quite disappointed when we decline to pay the fee to look through the museum.
Around the back we find an open door, and Suzanne, who tells us she is sorry she cannot stay as she is due at another museum. She tells us she has some records (transcripts from memorial inscriptions, old county records), but viewing is by appointment only and asks how long we are here for. Tony says it is only the afternoon, but we are in the district a few days, we just are not sure if we will have the opportunity to return. She grabs a few books that she thinks will help, and takes through to the back of the museum where we are left to it. The books are a great help, especially as the transcripts fill in many of the gaps from the gravestones across the road at the church. Some gravestones or too weathered and worn to read easily. We are still at the museum three hours later when Suzanne returns, and she offers to email us any information we need. We are given the contact details for another local historian, Brian Lambie, and when Tony contacts him later he is told that there is a big, fat file on the Craigs. It is all in hard copy, so Tony is hoping he can get his hands on it and scan it (too many pages to photocopy, but will resort to that if need be). Family notes showed that Tony’s great grandmother was exhumed, but we had no proof, and there were no notes amending the death certificate. Brian Lambie tells us it was indeed true, and that foul play was suspected because William Craig remarried very soon after Catherine’s death.
Around 5pm we take the bus back, the buses have been a bit on the rickerty side so far, but this one takes the cake. It rattled, shook and graunched gears all the way back to West Linton. It is a wonder we made it back. It has been a great day and we feel like we have achieved a lot.
We are due to leave on Monday (28th), to go to Fort William, the highlight of the trip will be the Jacobite steam train trip to Mallaig. Just as it was a bit of a mission to get the trip and accommodation organised, it was a mission to get transport arranged, trains started at £60 out of both Glasgow and Edinburgh. We managed to get a cheap Megabus fare to Glasgow (£7.50 for the two of us), and CityLink to Fort William (£27). We decided to spend a couple of nights in Oban on the way back, and found a couple of cheap fares, £20 for the local carrier to Oban, and £14 on Citylink from Oban to Glasgow. We booked a night in Glasgow and will probably go back to Edinburgh from there.
On the Friday night Connor gets a call from the family who are arriving after us, an American couple with two children, aged 2½ and 5. They are in the area early, and ask if they can possibly arrive on Saturday. We wonder where everyone will fit! We offer to sleep on the couch for two nights. Connor and Mike will move into the room we had, and the family will be in the master room. There is a cot and a mattress on the floor for the kids. It is going to be a full house here for a couple of days. Lisa and Carter arrive around mid afternoon.
On Sunday we go to the bakery at the farm where Connor works. The bakery is not open today, so we can use the ovens to make pizzas. Connor makes the dough from scratch, the pizzas are yummy.
Back at the house we call Haggis about a trip to Wales – we are having a lot of trouble getting accommodation over Queen’s Birthday weekend at the beginning of June. It is a four day holiday because it is her 60th Jubilee celebration, and it is school half term, so the nation is on holiday, and no cheap accommodation is available in the Lake District. Haggis has a sale on (selected trips), and there is one leaving the 4th of June, that suits us just nicely as we are only booked until the 2nd. The staff tell us there are no special offer seats available on that tour, and there are only four seats left. Tony asks for a discount (returning customer), and they say they will have to check in the morning. So Tony reserves seats, and we will hear from them tomorrow.
We are away in the morning, catching the 9am bus to Edinburgh, then on to Glasgow and Fort William.